Pivotably adjustable fill indicator

Harvesters – Motorized harvester – With condition-responsive operation

Reexamination Certificate

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Reexamination Certificate




Conventional mowers include a mower deck that is mounted beneath a vehicle such as a lawn and garden tractor. Mower blades rotate within the mower deck for cutting vegetation and grass into clippings. The mower blades then direct the clippings out a discharge opening formed in the periphery of the mower deck. One type of mower has a discharge opening positioned at the rear of the deck beneath the vehicle for directing clippings rearwardly out of the deck along the centerline of the vehicle. The mower deck typically has two blades rotating side by side and in opposite directions so that a rearward and upward current of air is generated between the blades along the centerline of the vehicle. A clippings chute is provided which extends upwardly and rearwardly from the rear discharge opening. The chute passes upwardly generally along the centerline of the vehicle and generally between the rear drive wheels. A clippings container or bagger is mounted to the rear of the lawn tractor. The chute opens into the container for directing clippings from the mower deck into the container. These rear discharge mowers are advantageous in that the clippings are directed out of the mower deck, through the chute and into the container with a relatively straight trajectory and without having to round any curves or corners. Therefore, the clippings retain a relatively high velocity, which reduces plugging and eliminates the need for a supplemental blower or fan mechanism for forcing the air into the container.
It is known to provide grass clippings containers with fill indicator mechanisms. Fill indicators have taken a number of different forms. One type of fill indicator includes an arm pivotable about an axis. The arm is positioned within the clippings container or bagger such that as the grass pile on the floor of the container accumulates and grows clippings will eventually accumulate on top of the arm, causing the arm to pivot downwardly. Pivotal motion of the arm engages an electrical switch, which then sounds an audible alarm alerting the operator that the container is close to becoming full. This type of fill indicator has been positioned within the container near the location where the chute opens into the container. This is generally the last portion of the container to become filled with grass, and therefore positioning the fill indicator directly beneath and in close proximity to the chute outlet helps ensure the indicator is not activated until the container is almost full. The fill indicator is positioned to be triggered when clippings pile up to such an extent that the pile approaches the chute opening.
Conventional fill indicators of this type have the disadvantage of being actuated at different degrees of bagger fullness depending on the conditions of the clippings. For example, if the clippings are very dry and light, then the fill indicator may not be triggered until the clippings container is overfilled. The light clippings apply only a relatively small force against the arm which may not be sufficient to pivot the arm. When the clippings are wet, thick or heavy, the fill indicator may be triggered too soon by the weight of small accumulations of clippings on the arm or the force applied by airborne clippings. Heavy clippings apply a relatively large force against the arm which may be sufficient to pivot the arm before the container becomes full. Also, clippings may accumulate unevenly within conventional clippings containers and may pile up proximate the fill indicator. If clippings pile up near the fill indicator in this way before piling up in the other areas of the container, then the fill indicator may be triggered too soon. Uneven distribution of clippings within the container can thereby trigger the fill indicator prematurely before the container is actually filled.
It would therefore be desirable to provide a fill indicator that can accurately warn the operator that the bag is full or nearly full and about to clog the chute. It would be desirable for such a fill indicator to function properly and accurately when the mower is operating in a variety of different operating conditions, such as in light, dry grass and leaves, or in heavy wet grass. It would also be desirable to provide a clippings container whose entire volume is filled evenly before the fill indicator is actuated, so that the fill indicator is not triggered when the container is only partially filled. This would reduce the frequency at which the container is emptied by the operator and increase the efficiency of the mowing operations.
The present invention provides an adjustable fill indicator which alerts the operator of a mowing vehicle that the clippings container is about to become full and the chute is about to clog. A mower deck carried beneath a lawn tractor between the front and rear pairs of wheels includes a rear discharge outlet. Counter-rotating blades direct clippings out the discharge outlet and into a clippings chute that extends rearwardly and upwardly generally along the centerline of the vehicle and generally between the rear pair of tractor wheels. A clippings container is carried at the rear of the vehicle and receives the flow of clippings from the chute.
A fill indicator is positioned within the container directly beneath the chute. The fill indicator includes a lever that extends into the container. As clippings accumulate within the container they eventually pile up on top of the lever, causing the lever to pivot downwardly under the weight of the accumulating clippings pile. The pivoting lever presses upwardly on a leaf spring that depresses a button of an electrical switch. Engagement of the switch sounds an audible alarm that alerts the operator that the container is nearly full. The position of the fill indicator adjacent the chute causes the fill indicator to be triggered directly before the chute becomes clogged with clippings.
The fill indicator is pivotally adjustable by an operator about a horizontal and laterally extending axis. The operator can adjust the angular position of the lever, leaf spring and switch, which pivot as a unit about a single axis during adjustments. When the lever is adjusted to a relatively outright or horizontally extending orientation, a relatively light downward force applied to the lever by a pile of clippings will cause the lever to pivot downwardly and trigger the switch. The large moment arm established by the outstretched lever results in relatively large torque forces when downward force is applied to the lever. This causes the lever to pivot when a relatively light pile of clippings falls on the lever. The lever can therefore be adjusted to this setting when operating in relatively light dry grass or leaves. The lever pivots and the switch will be activated when a pile of light clippings falls on the lever, and therefore the fill indicator will alert the operator that the container is nearly full.
The fill indicator can be adjusted by the operator so that the lever extends downwardly relatively vertically within the container. In this orientation the lever requires a relatively large downward force to be applied to the lever in order for the lever to pivot downwardly. In this orientation the downward force is applied to the lever at a relatively short perpendicular distance from the pivot axis of the lever, and therefore a relatively small moment arm is established. This results in a relatively small torque force when downward forces are applied to the lever, and therefore a relatively large force must be applied to the lever in order to pivot the lever and actuate the switch. The operator may wish to adjust the fill indicator to this setting when mowing in relatively thick, heavy or wet grasses. In this setting the lever is generally hindered from pivoting when contacted by wet or relatively heavy airborne clippings circulating within the container. The lever is pivoted only when a sufficient amount of clippings accumulate on the lever, and the fill indicator will generally not be trigge


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