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United States Patent Application 20170368433
Kind Code A1
Nelson; Brian Dale December 28, 2017

Ball Launch and Catch Game

Abstract

A one or two player ball game assembly comprising a motorized ball launcher that shoots balls upwards into the air in a random fountain like pattern. Each player catches or retrieves the launched balls and places them back into their designated reservoir. The reservoir gravity feeds the balls back into a striker mechanism. In one embodiment, the reservoirs are clear tubes so that each player may monitor the number of balls in each player's reservoir during play. The clear tubes also act as a fence, keeping each player on their respective sides thus minimizing possible collisions during play. In one embodiment, the game operates on an adjustable timer (e.g. 1-15 minutes) which automatically terminates powered to the motorized striker. The timer may also trigger an audible signal (e.g. bell) when the game is over. The winner is the player with the most balls in their reservoir at the end of play. In the single player game, a single reservoir is used and the player's score is the number of balls in the reservoir when the game ends.


Inventors: Nelson; Brian Dale; (Birchwood, MN)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Nelson; Brian Dale

Birchwood

MN

US
Family ID: 1000002047214
Appl. No.: 15/194268
Filed: June 27, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 67/002 20130101; A63B 65/12 20130101
International Class: A63B 65/12 20060101 A63B065/12; A63B 67/00 20060101 A63B067/00

Claims



1. A ball game assembly comprising: a plurality of balls, two or more reservoirs proving a means of storing the said balls, a drive shaft comprising two or more disks and one or more cam drivers urging a ball striker, an electric motor providing a means of rotating the said drive shaft, an aperture in each of the said disks providing a means of alternating the feeding of said balls from each of the said reservoirs to the said ball striker whereby the said ball striker launches the said balls in an upwards direction.

2. The ball game assembly of claim 1, wherein the said reservoirs are transparent, or contain openings whereby the players may see the balls in the reservoirs during play.

3. The ball game assembly of claim 2, wherein the said reservoirs are elongated placing the balls in a generally single file orientation providing a means of determining the number of balls in each reservoir during play.

4. The ball game assembly of claim 3, wherein the said elongated reservoirs are angled from horizontal whereby gravity can be used to feed the said balls to the said ball striker.

5. The ball game assembly of claim 1, wherein a striker cup and raised circular boss provide a means of placing the said ball in a random slightly off center orientation whereby the said striker launches the said balls in a random vertical fountain like pattern.

6. The ball game assembly of claim 1, wherein the said reservoirs are easily detachable from the striker assembly without the use of fasteners.

7. The ball game assembly of claim 1, wherein the said striker is biased in the upward direction by one or more compression springs.

8. A method of playing a ball game with two players comprising: designating a reservoir containing balls to each said player, turning on the said ball game whereby power is supplied to a ball launcher, catching or retrieving said balls as they are launched into the air by the said ball launcher, placing the said balls back into each said player's said designated reservoir whereby they are fed back into the said ball launcher, turning off the said ball game whereby power is removed from the said ball launcher, whereby the game winner is the said player with the most said balls in their said designated reservoir.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein a timer switch may be used whereby the said ball game play time may be adjusted and the said ball launcher automatically shuts off

10. The method of claim 8 wherein the said reservoirs are elongated and angled from horizontal whereby providing a means of separation between said players in order to keep each said player on their respective sides thereby preventing collisions during play.

11. The method of claim 8 wherein the speed of the said ball launcher may be adjustable.

12. A method of playing a ball game with one player comprising: a reservoir containing a plurality of balls, turning on the said ball game whereby power is supplied to a ball launcher, catching or retrieving said balls as they are launched into the air by the said ball launcher, placing the said balls back into the said reservoir whereby they are fed back into the said ball launcher, turning off the said ball game whereby power is removed from the said ball launcher, whereby the said player's score is the number of said balls in the said reservoir.
Description



[0001] Embodiments of the invention relate generally to indoor ball games, ping pong ball feeder mechanisms, and, more particularly to games involving catching a ball, and placing it back into an apparatus that automatically launches it back into the air.

BACKGROUND

[0002] There are a multitude of indoor ball games including billiards, ping pong, and ball tossing games typically involving throwing a ball into a hoop, hole, or at a target. There are also many variations of games using a ping pong ball including games like beer pong, where balls are bounced into a cup. There are also several types of mechanisms that automatically shoot or launch a ball into the air using a ping pong ball. These mechanisms typically involve launching the ball using a pair of spinning wheels, or by striking the ball with a spring loaded mechanism. The ping pong ball feeders on the market are manufactured for use as an apparatus to practice the game of ping pong. The mechanisms typically attach to a ping pong table and feed balls to a player so they can practice their shots using a ping pong paddle.

SUMMARY

[0003] The embodiments of the invention provide a game that automatically launches balls one by one upwards into the air in in a random fountain like pattern. One or more player(s) then catch the balls in mid air, or retrieves them on the ground. The player(s) then places the ball back into their designated reservoir where they are fed back into the invention to be launched again.

[0004] The reservoirs provide a clear indication of how many balls are in the reservoir. This may be accomplished by using clear tubes with inside diameters slightly larger than the ball diameter so that the balls form a sleeve of balls whose length (or number of balls) is easily distinguished during play.

[0005] The invention may run on an adjustable timer switch (e.g. 1-15 minutes). In the two player game, each player places balls into their designated reservoir and the game begins with multiple balls in each reservoir. The feed mechanism of the invention alternates between reservoirs when feeding balls into the ball striking mechanism. When the timer switch expires, and the motorized feeder stops, the winner is the player with the most balls in their reservoir. To prevent collisions when catching and retrieving balls, the reservoir tubes act as a fence between players, each player must stay on their side during play.

[0006] In the single player game, a deflector may be attached attached to the invention to ensure balls are launched on the side towards the single player. Only one reservoir is used and when the game ends, the score is the number of balls left in the reservoir.

[0007] The invention uses a geared electric motor to turn a drive shaft with one or more cam drivers that actuate a spring loaded striker to propel the balls into the air. In one embodiment, the invention may use rotating disks and apertures to feed in balls from the tubular reservoirs.

[0008] The above summary is not intended to describe each embodiment or every implementation of the invention. Rather, a more complete understanding of the invention will become apparent and appreciated by reference to the following Detailed Description of exemplary embodiments and claims in view of the accompanying figures of the drawing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

[0009] The invention will be further described with reference to the figures of the drawing, wherein:

[0010] FIG. 1 is a front isometric view of the ball launch and catch game invention showing a ball launched into the air;

[0011] FIG. 2 is an enlarged top isometric view of the housing assembly and feed assemblies being assembled;

[0012] FIG. 3 is an enlarged top isometric view of the upper housing assembly showing the striker mechanism;

[0013] FIG. 4 is an enlarged isometric view of the lower housing showing the battery compartment;

[0014] FIG. 5 is an enlarged front isometric view of the lower housing assembly with the upper housing and drive shaft removed;

[0015] FIG. 6 is an enlarged front isometric view of the lower housing assembly with the upper housing removed and the drive shaft shown;

[0016] FIG. 7A is a section view of the housing assembly showing the initial contact between the cam driver on the drive shaft and the striker;

[0017] FIG. 7B is a section view of the housing assembly showing the rotating cam driver moving the striker in the downward direction;

[0018] FIG. 7C is a section view of the housing assembly showing the rotating cam driver moving the striker to its lowest position when the cam driver loses contact with the striker;

[0019] FIG. 7D is a section view of the housing assembly showing the spring loaded striker snapping back to its original upward position resulting in the ball being propelled in the upward direction;

[0020] FIG. 7E is a section view of the housing assembly showing the aperture on the rotating disk allowing the next ball to be fed into the striker cup;

[0021] FIG. 8 is an enlarged isometric view of the drive shaft including its two disks and two cam drivers;

[0022] The figures are rendered primarily for clarity and are not necessarily drawn to scale. Moreover, various structure/components, including but not limited to fasteners, electrical components (wiring, cables, etc.), and the like, may be removed from some or all of the views where inclusion of such structure/components is not necessary to understand the various exemplary embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0023] In the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments of the invention, reference is made to the accompanying figures of the drawing which form a part hereof, and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced.

[0024] It is understood that individual parts may be assembled by several different means including, but not limited to, screws, bolts, adhesives, pins, retaining rings, press fits etc. without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0025] For simplicity, the wiring between electrical components and the motor drives has been eliminated. It is understood that all of the electrical components are connected by some form of wiring.

[0026] FIG. 1 is a front isometric view of the ball launch and catch game 10 showing a ball 16 launched into the air in generally vertical trajectory 18 in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. Two detachable ball feed assemblies (12a, 12b) attach without the need for fasteners to the housing assembly 14. The two feed assemblies (12a, 12b) act as a fence between players, each must stay on their side during play to help prevent collisions between players. When the ball 16 flies to a player's side, they catch or retrieve the ball and place it back into their designated feed assembly (12a, 12b) by placing it in the funnel 20. At the end of the game, the player with the most balls 16 in their feed assembly (12a, 12b) wins. In the single player game only one feed assembly 12a is attached and the player's score is the number of balls in the feed assembly 12a when the game ends.

[0027] It is up to the players to decide how many initial balls start in each reservoir, and the game may be handicapped by adjusting the number of balls (e.g., a poor performing player may start with more balls in their reservoir).

[0028] The ball feed assemblies (12a, 12b) are comprised of a funnel 20 a clear tube 22, and a housing connector 24. The funnel 20 and housing connector 24 may be comprised of injection molded parts and fastened to the clear tube using a press fit or an adhesive. They may also be molded out a clear material (e.g. polystyrene or acrylic) so that the balls 16 may be seen inside them. The clear tube 22 may be made of an extruded plastic material such as polystyrene.

[0029] The clear tube 22 acts as a reservoir for a plurality of balls 16 that may be ping pong balls or other lightweight plastic balls with a rigid outer shell. The inner diameter of the clear tube 22 may be slightly larger than the outer diameter of the balls 16 so that they form a string or sleeve of balls where each player may easily see how many are in each reservoir during play. The clear tube 22 may also be angled from horizontal (e.g., 45 to 70 degrees) so that the balls 16 are gravity fed into the housing assembly 14. The clear tubes 22 may also have graduations, and/or numbers (not shown) to aid in assessing the number of balls in each reservoir.

[0030] FIG. 2 is an enlarged top isometric view of the housing assembly 14 and feed assemblies (12a, 12b) being assembled. The housing connector 24 contains two receptacles 28 that insert into insertion bosses 30 in the top housing 34 by lowering the assembly in the downward direction 40 until they mate and bottom out. The receptacles 28 in the housing connector 24 are joined by a tubular feature 26 that also mates with a tubular feature 32 in the top housing 34, these mating features provide additional stability during insertion. These features provide a means of joining the feed assemblies (12a, 12b) to the housing assembly 14, once inserted, gravity holds the feed assemblies (12a, 12b) securely in place.

[0031] The housing assembly 14 consists in part of the upper housing 34 and the lower housing 36 which may be fastened together using screws (shown later). The housings may be injection molded parts. The housing assembly 14 may also contain a timer switch 38, which may be a spring loaded device that when turned to the desired run time (e.g., 1 to 15 minutes), the invention will feed and launch balls 16 into the air for the desired time. When the time elapses, the invention will turn itself off and the game is over. The timer switch 38 may also provide an audible sound such as a bell when time elapses and the game ends. The housing assembly 14 may also contain an adjustable speed controller (not shown) to control the speed of the motor feeding the balls.

[0032] FIG. 3 is an enlarged top isometric view of the housing assembly 14 showing the striker mechanism. The balls 16 are fed one by one into the striker cup 44. The balls 16 are prevented from entering the striker cup 44 because they are trapped between the housing connector flange 42 and a disk 46a. The balls 16 enter only when an aperture (shown later) in the disk 46a allows the ball 16 to enter the striker cup 44. There is a rotating disk (46a, 46b) at the base of both ball feed assemblies (12a, 12b) and apertures in both disks alternate feeding balls from both feed assemblies.

[0033] The striker pin 48 protrudes upwards from a hole in the upper housing 34. A raised ring 50 surrounds the hole which provides a means of producing random ball flight trajectories. As the ball 16 enters the striker cup 44, it rotates around the striker cup 44 and raised ring 50 such that the center of the ball 16 is never in line with the axis of the striker pin 48. The striker pin 48 always strikes the ball off center creating a random fountain like trajectory patterns.

[0034] FIG. 4 is an enlarged isometric view of the bottom housing 36 showing the battery compartment 52. The ball launch and catch game 10 is actuated by a DC gear motor (shown later) and may be powered by standard DC batteries. A battery compartment 52 sized for eight 1.5 volt AA batteries is shown. The batteries may be connected in series to increase the supply voltage. Many other power sources may be used including other combinations of standard DC battery sizes and quantities, rechargeable batteries, and internal or external power supplies. A battery door 54 may be fastened to the lower housing 36 using screws 56, although other means (e.g. snap fits, tabs etc.) may also be used.

[0035] The upper housing 34 and lower housing 36 may be fastened together using screws 60 that pilot through holes 62 in the lower housing 36 into threaded holes (not shown) in the upper housing 34. Other variations of attachment may include self tapping screws, adhesives, sonic welding, threaded inserts, etc.

[0036] FIG. 5 is an enlarged front isometric view of the lower housing assembly 14 with the upper housing 34 and drive shaft removed. A DC gear motor 66 may be attached to a motor plate 64 using flat head screws (not shown). The DC motor plate assembly may then be secured to the upper housing 34 and lower housing 36 using flanges 65 that mate with the edges of the motor plate 64. The DC motor plate assembly is further captivated by half round cut outs 80 in the upper housing 34 and lower housing 36 that wrap around cylindrical features in the DC gear motor 66 and drive shaft 98 (see FIG. 6). The DC gear motor may be a 6-12 Volt motor with an operating speed of 25-100 rotations per minute.

[0037] The timer switch 38 may be attached the lower housing by a threaded D shaft 88 protruding from the timer housing 84 and a nut 86. The nut 86 also captivates the face plate 88 which has time increment markings (e.g. 1-15 minutes). The knob 90 may then be press fit onto the threaded D shaft to complete the assembly.

[0038] The striker 74 slides up and down on two posts (68a and 68b) which are captivated by bosses 78 in the lower housing and upper housing (not shown). In order to prevent binding, the clearance between the first striker hole 72 and post 68a may be less than the second hole 70 and post 68b, or, the second hole may be slotted. Two compression springs 76 form a slip fit over the outside diameters of the posts (68a and 68b) and provide an upward force against the striker 74.

[0039] FIG. 6 is an enlarged front isometric view of the lower housing assembly 14 with the upper housing 34 removed and the drive shaft 45 shown. On each end of the drive shaft 45 are two disks 46a and 46b that act as gates preventing the balls 16 from entering the striker cup 44. On each end of the drive shaft 45 are also two cam drivers 94a and 94b which actuate the striker 74. Each full rotation of the drive shaft 45 actuates the striker 74 two times. The drive shaft 45 may be fixated to the D shaft 82 of the gear motor 66 (see FIG. 5) using a set screw 96 that seats down on the flat of the D shaft 82. The drive shaft 45 may be fixated to the DC gear motor 66 by other means such as adhesives, press fits, locking collars, split collars, etc. On the end of the drive shaft is a cylindrical shaft 98 that is captivated by half round cut outs 80 (see FIG. 5) in the upper housing 34 and lower housing 36 that wrap around the cylindrical shaft 98.

[0040] FIG. 7A is a section view of the housing assembly 14 showing the contact point 104 between the cam driver 94a on the drive shaft 45 and the striker 74. The drive shaft 45, disk 46a, and cam driver 94a all rotate as a single part in the clockwise direction 100 powered by the DC gear motor 66.

[0041] FIG. 7B is a section view of the housing assembly 14 showing the cam driver 94a moving the striker 74 in the downward direction. The cam driver 94a pushes down on the striker 74 at contact point 104, rounded surfaces on both the cam driver 94a and striker 74 minimize the wear between parts. The two compression springs 76 compress as the striker 74 moves downward increasing the upward force against the striker 74 which is guided by the two posts 68a and 68b (see FIG. 5).

[0042] FIG. 7C is a section view of the housing assembly 14 showing the rotating cam driver 94a moving the striker 74 to its lowest position when the cam driver 94a loses contact with the striker 74 at contact point 104.

[0043] FIG. 7D is a section view of the housing assembly 14 showing the spring loaded striker 74 snapping back to its original upward position. At this point the striker pin 48 strikes the ball 16 and propels it in the upward direction 106. The impact may propel the ball 16 two to eight feet into the air. The impact force may depend on, but is not limited to the spring forces (e.g. spring constant, wire diameter, etc.), the stroke length of spring compression, and the characteristics of the ball (e.g. ball weight, outer shell hardness, etc.).

[0044] FIG. 7E is a section view of the housing assembly 14 showing the aperture 102a on the disk 46a allowing the next ball 16 to be fed into the striker cup 44. FIG. 8 is an enlarged hidden line isometric view of the drive shaft 45 including its two disks (46a, 46b), two cam drivers (94a, 94b), and two apertures (102a, 102b). The cam drivers (94a, 94b) and apertures (102a, 102b) are positioned relative to each other whereby a ball 16 is fed between strikes (ball 16 propelled into the air). The apertures (102a, 102b) are also 180 degrees apart so that a ball 16 is fed from each reservoir, alternating between them.

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