CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This non-provisional application for patent is related to an earlier filed provisional application for patent of the inventor, Ser. No. 60/644,295, filed Jan. 14, 2005, entitled Apparatus for Storing and Dispensing Paintballs and Propellant. Applicant claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 based on the foregoing provisional application.
1. Field of the Invention
This disclosure relates to personal paintball storage and dispensing devices, and more specifically to paintball beltpacks for simultaneously storing and dispensing paintballs and propellant.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Conventional paintball apparatus equip a paintball marker with a paintball hopper for feeding paintballs to the marker as required. During a paintball game, when the hopper is empty, a player may refill the hopper from one or more storage pods generally carried in or on a backpack or belt. A single pod generally may or may not refill the hopper. In some paintball games such as speedball or hyperball or the like, time is at a premium, and players may not have sufficient time to reload the hopper a number of times during a game.
Conventional paintball markers generally use compressed carbon dioxide, air or nitrogen as the propellant. The propellant is generally dispensed from a metal storage cylinder attached at or near the handle of the marker. Since the marker is gripped and carried in the hand of the player, the weight of the propellant cylinder on a paintball marker makes use of the marker sometimes cumbersome, awkward and hard on ones wrist.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
What is needed is an apparatus to dispense large volumes of paintballs directly to a paintball marker as well as dispensing propellant to the marker, while minimizing the weight of the marker.
In a first aspect of the present disclosure, a paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus provides a storage belt, beltpack, backpack or other carrier that mounts to the torso, equipped with a propellant cylinder adapter connected to a propellant feed hose connected to the marker. The storage belt or backpack also provides one or more or storage pods connected to a paintball distribution mechanism feeding paintballs to the marker.
In another aspect of the present disclosure, a paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus includes a paintball distribution mechanism that may be powered by batteries, springs, or that may use propellant pressure to drive the paintball distribution mechanism. Any suitable drive mechanism may be used.
In still another aspect, a paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus according to the present disclosure may also include a helical coiled propellant feed line that is coiled around and extends the length of a paintball delivery tube extending to the marker. The paintball delivery tube may also include an internal helical drive coil to convey paintballs through the delivery tube to the marker without crushing the paintballs. The internal helical drive coil also provides internal support for the cylindrical walls of the delivery tube and helps prevent the collapse or crushing of the delivery tube during play.
In still another aspect, the present disclosure includes a propellant delivery system having a pressure regulator to permit the propellant feed line to operate at a lower pressure than otherwise.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other features and advantages of this invention together with the structure characteristic thereof, which were only briefly summarized in the foregoing passages becomes more apparent from the detailed description and accompanying figures that follow. In the figures and description, numerals indicate the various features of the disclosure, like numerals referring to like features throughout both the drawings and the description.
FIG. 1 is a front view of the paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a pictorial of a preferred form of paintball storage pod used in the apparatus of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a schematic of a paintball delivery system useful in the apparatus of FIG. 1 that uses rotation of a helix to delivery paintballs; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
FIG. 4 is a schematic of a second delivery system useful in the apparatus of FIG. 1 that uses a conveyer to deliver paintballs.
Referring now to FIG. 1, paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus 10 includes propellant storage element, tank or container 12 and one or more paintball storage containers referred to as pods, such as storage pods 14, 16, 18, and 20. Propellant storage element 12 is a separately purchased third party product containing pressurized gas. That element is connected to the distribution assembly 22 using any suitable connector or adapter 46.
Distribution assembly 22 is essentially a hub that's composed of both a propellant delivery assembly 24 and a paintball delivery assembly 26. Paintballs are conducted from paintball storage pods such as storage pods 14, 16, 18, and 20 to paintball delivery assembly 26 by feed channels or tubes, such as feed tubes 28. Paintball delivery assembly 26 uses any suitable mechanism 44 to drive or otherwise feed paintballs into paintball feed or delivery tube 30. Such mechanism often includes electrical motor or motors, control circuitry and batteries 45 with which to supply electrical power to that motor, later herein discussed in greater detail. Paintball delivery tube 30 conducts paintballs from paintball delivery assembly 26 to an auxiliary feed motor 32. In an operational paintball system, the auxiliary feed motor is attached to the feed neck, the chamber, of the paintball gun, not illustrated, used by the player with which the present invention is combined.
As those familiar with paintball apparatus know, the paintball gun that is available in the market contains a hand-grip and trigger for the player to hold and operate the paintball gun. The gun also contains a fitting to mount a propellant gas to propel paintballs when the player operates the trigger and contains a feed neck (or chamber) through which the player stocks the gun hopper with paintballs. Auxiliary feed motor 32 retrieves the paintballs that reach the end of the distribution tube 30 and transfers the balls to the chamber of the paintball gun, not illustrated. In alternative embodiments, block 32 may represent the paintball gun, which is often referred to as a marker. In that alternative, one may attach the end of the paintball distribution tube 30 directly to the chamber of the paintball gun 32.
Propellant delivery assembly 24 is connected to marker 32 via propellant delivery or feed line 34. If the marker in the embodiment is a paintball gun, the end of line may be connected directly to the propellant connector of the gun. Where the marker constitutes an auxiliary motor, the end of the line is connected directly to the propellant connector of the gun, before the system is placed into operation. Propellant delivery assembly 24 may or may not include a regulator such as regulator 36 to step the pressure down to a level suitable for operating marker 32. Propellant delivery assembly 24 may also include any suitable controls and or monitoring elements such as for example, monitoring and or controlling propellant pressure to the marker, monitoring and or controlling propellant pressure in propellant storage element 12.
Paintball and propellant storage and dispensing apparatus 10 may be housed or otherwise adapted for carrying by inclusion in a backpack or a belt such as belt 38. Belt 38 may provide adapters, such as adapter 40 for securing storage pods such as storage pods 14, 16, 18, and 20 to belt 38 and feed tube 28. Adapters such as adapter 40 may provide secure attachment for storage pods as well as easy attachment for refilling storage pods and provide for attachment of variously designed storage pods. Typically, the outlet of a storage pod contains a threaded end. Coupler 40 connects that threaded end to the conduit or tube that is passage for the paintballs into distribution assembly 22. Ideally the entire back side of the belt is covered by a rigid structure that blocks access from the exterior to any of the conduits 28 or the distribution assembly 22. That prevents external projectiles from striking those locations and possibly breaking some paintballs.
A portion of the belt is omitted in the not-to-scale-view of FIG. 1 as represented by the break lines 35 and 37 as shown at the left and right ends, respectively. However, the belt is great enough in length to fit about the stomach region of the player while the pods carried by the belt all remain on the player's back. Belt 38 is attached to the torso of a person and is secured to the player's torso, as example, by hook and loop fasteners and 48, which fits the belt snuggly over the player's hips. Other fasteners may be substituted, if desired. Likewise, shoulder belts, formed by conventional adjustable straps or those common to conventional back packs may be added, if desired.
With hindsight one appreciates that the belt is one preferred form of a torso-mounted carrier for the storage pods and propellant tank. A backpack is another form of carrier. By whatever name may be used to describe a carrier, for this application, any specific carrier may be substituted for the belt that mounts the unit to the torso of the player, mounting the attached units at some distance from the auxiliary control motor or marker 32, typically the location of the players hand and wrist. That positioning removes the weight of those kinds of elements from the wrist of the player.
Reference is again made to the paintball storage pods 14, 16, 18 and 20 described in connection with FIG. 1. As an added feature, each of those pods includes a cap 53 located at the end of the pod opposite to the outlet end that's connected to conduit 28. That other end is threaded 51 and cap 53, containing internal threads, not visible in the figure, is screwed into place at that end. A compressible spring 50 is attached to the inside of the cap, and the opposite end of the spring is attached to a disk 54. The spring loaded disk presses lightly against the paintballs stored in the pod when the cap is screwed down in place on the pod and spring 50 is compressed. In so doing the paintballs are essentially held in place and cannot bounce around, if, for example, the player carrying the unit 10 is running.
As earlier described, any acceptable form of paintball delivery system may be employed in the combination. Two such delivery systems come to mind, which the reader may consider. In the first, which is illustrated in FIG. 1, a hollow flexible tube 30 extends from an outlet in paintball delivery assembly 26 to the marker 32, approximately the length of a player's arm. An elongated helix 42 is situated inside that tube. That helix is of a length that extends the length of tube 39 with the distance between adjacent coils in the helix being just large enough to hold a paint ball. The inlet end of the helix, located inside paintball delivery assembly 26, is coupled to a clutch 55 and an electric motor 54. The arrangement is presented in a schematic form in FIG. 3.
When energized motor 54 rotates the helix 42. As paintballs deposited inside paintball delivery assembly 26 are crowded into the interior of tube 30, they are taken up by the rotating helix 42 and conveyed along the helix, eventually reaching the distal end at the marker. If the chamber of the marker 32 is open, the paintball may be deposited therein. If not, the paintball remains inside the tube 30. As the driving motor continues to turn the helix 42, assuming the marker 32 is not used to expel sufficient paintballs, the helix eventually fills with paintballs. Since the paintballs at the end are static, the torque builds up and the clutch operates, de-coupling the motor from the helix 42, temporarily. Once sufficient balls have been released at the end of tube 30, the clutch re-engages and the motor commences driving the helix in rotation. Should the player desire to halt the motor, the player may operate the on-off switch, not illustrated to off, cutting off electricity to the motor. It is noted that the inclusion of a helix, such as made of metal or nylon inside tube 30 adds support to the sidewalls of the latter tube giving the tube additional strength and preventing those walls from collapsing.
In the second, an electric motor-driven conveyor 57 is included in the assembly 26 that contains a pair of conveyer belts 58 and 59. The belts are driven so they pick up paintballs at one end, where the balls are deposited from the appropriate pod 14, and propel the paintballs into the end of delivery tube 30. At that end, the auxiliary feed motor delivers each paintball that reaches the end of tube 30 to the paintball gun attached to the auxiliary motor. The auxiliary motor is supplied by batteries in the paintball delivery assembly 26 via leads, not visible, that extend along the exterior of tube 30. Running continuously, the conveyor that inputs the balls into the tube 30 will eventually fill the tube, at which time the resistance on the conveyor increases to a level at which the conveyor shuts off temporarily. Once some balls are removed from the tube by the auxiliary feed motor, the conveyer automatically resumes operation.
With either form of paintball delivery system, the conduit for the propellant is a coiled air hose 34, which is coiled about the exterior of delivery tube 30. The coiled air hose is flexible, is significantly smaller in diameter than paintball delivery tube 30 and does not produce any significant restriction on the movement of the paintball delivery tube 30. The coiled air hose moves in unison with delivery tube 30.
In operation a user connects a charged propellant storage element 12 to distribution assembly 22 using any suitable connector or adapter 46. The user also connects at least one pod such as pod 14, which contains paintballs, to a feed tube 28. The user also connects propellant feed line 34 and paintball delivery tube 30 to the appropriate connectors on the auxiliary feed motor and thence through additional conduit, not illustrated, to the marker 32, or in the alternative embodiment, connects them directly to marker 32.
It is emphasized that the abstract which follows on a separate sheet is provided to allow a researcher or other reader to quickly ascertain the subject matter of the application, and not for the purpose of limiting the invention or interpreting the terms contained herein or limit the scope of meaning of the claims.
It is believed that the foregoing description of the preferred embodiments of the invention is sufficient in detail to enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention without undue experimentation. However, it is expressly understood that the detail of the elements comprising the embodiment presented for the foregoing purpose is not intended to limit the scope of the invention in any way, in as much as equivalents to those elements and other modifications thereof, all of which come within the scope of the invention, will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading this specification. As example, instead of channels or conduits 28 that are physically separate from assembly 22 and from the cover that overlies those elements, it is possible to provide an assembly that is molded of plastic material to include the channels 28 and provide compartments in the molded structure for the electric motors, batteries and electrical circuits.
Those skilled in this art will understand how to make changes and modifications to the present disclosure to meet their specific requirements or conditions. Such changes and modifications may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the disclosure as set forth in the following claims.