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US5574657: Electronic rate meter controller and method

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Filing Information

Inventor(s) Tofte; S. David · Steven W. Vogel ·
Assignee(s) Micro-Trak Systems, Inc. ·
Attorney/Agent(s) Merchant, Gould, Smith, Edell, Welter & Schmidt, P.A. ·
Primary Examiner Emanuel T. Voeltz ·
Assistant Examiner Hal D. Wachsman ·
Application Number US8193387
Filing date 02/08/1994
Issue date 11/12/1996
Predicted expiration date 02/08/2014
U.S. Classifications 364/510  · 364/479.1  ·
International Classifications G01F 1684  ·
Kind CodeA
International Classifications 364510;478;479;550;510;136;138;166;172;421;424.03;424.07 ·
29 Claims, No Drawings


Abstract

An electronic rate meter controller is provided for controlling the dispensing of meterable material by an applicator apparatus, typically in the agricultural area. The rate meter controller retrofits a manually-controllable rate meter within the applicator apparatus that controls the rate of material flow through the applicator by adjustment to a primary control member of the rate meter, such as a rotary calibration dial. The rate meter controller allows for automatic electronic control and adjustment to the rate meter by the primary control member, based on user inputs and certain sensor inputs. Typical sensor inputs include speed of the applicator apparatus as it is being moved while dispensing the metered material, and ambient air temperature which affects the applicator system pressure for certain materials such as anhydrous ammonia. The rate meter controller also allows for manual electronic remote control of the rate meter, such as from a cab of a vehicle moving the applicator apparatus. The rate meter controller can be utilized as an independent system or as a subsystem of an integrated system controlling a plurality of control devices. The rate meter controller can accommodate one or a plurality of rate meters within an applicator apparatus.

Independent Claims | See all claims (29)

  1. 1. An electronic rate meter controller for controlling dispensing of a meterable material by an applicator of the type having a rate meter that controls the rate of material flow through the applicator in direct response to movement of a manually adjustable primary control member, comprising:(a) actuator means configured for operative mechanical connection to the manually adjustable primary control member of the rate meter and to receive an electrical control signal, for mechanically moving the manually adjustable primary control member in controlled response to said electrical control signal; said actuator means being operatively connectable to said manually adjustable primary control member without requiring structural changes to be made to the applicator or rate meter; and(b) electronic control means operatively connected to said actuator means for providing said electrical control signal to mechanically move the manually adjustable primary control member to desired control positions; wherein the rate of manual flow through the applicator is adjusted in real time in response to said electrical control signal.
  2. 23. A system for managing a plurality of agricultural devices, one of said plurality of agricultural devices having an applicator for dispensing a meterable material by means of a rate meter that controls the rate of material flow through the applicator in response to movement of a manually adjustable primary control member, the system comprising:(a) user interface means for selectively displaying status and control information associated with the plurality of agricultural devices and for receiving user input information for selectively controlling operation of the plurality of agricultural devices; and(b) electronic integrated system control means, operatively connected between said user interface means and the plurality of agricultural devices, for identifying each agricultural device to be managed, for storing program code and data, for accessing stored program code and data associated with each identified agricultural device, for receiving user input information from said user interface means, for generating electrical control signals controlling the plurality of agricultural devices and for providing said status and control information to said user interface means;(c) wherein said electronic integrated system control means comprises an electronic rate meter controller for controlling said one of said plurality of agricultural devices, comprising:(i) actuator means configured for operative mechanical connection to the manually adjustable primary control member of the rate meter and to receive an electrical control signal, for mechanically moving the manually adjustable primary control member in controlled real time response to said electrical control signal; and(ii) electronic control means operatively connected to said actuator means for providing said electrical control signal to mechanically move the manually adjustable primary control member to desired control positions; wherein the rate of material flow through the applicator is adjustably controlled in real time in response to said electrical control signal.
  3. 24. A method for automatically controlling an applicator connected rate meter of the type that has a manually adjustable primary control member that changes the flow rate of material through the rate meter when adjustably moved, comprising:(a) sensing changes in at least one parameter, the variance of which affects the desired flow rate of the rate meter;(b) providing an electrical input signal in response to the at least one sensed parameter changes;(c) electronically providing an electrical control signal in response to said electrical input signal, said electrical control signal varying in real time with said changes in said an least one sensed parameter;(d) converting said electrical control signal to a discrete calibrated mechanical force;(e) mechanically coupling the manually adjustable primary control member of the rate meter to receive said discrete calibrated mechanical force; and(f) automatically moving the manually adjustable primary control member in response to said discrete calibrated mechanical force; wherein the flow rate of material through the rate meter is controllably changed in real time response to changes in said at least one sensed parameter.
  4. 27. A method of retrofitting an applicator apparatus of the type having a manually controllable rate meter that controls the rate of material flow through the applicator system, for a desired user real-time control by an electronic control means, without altering those portions of the applicator apparatus through which the material flows, comprising the steps of:(a) providing said electronic control means for producing an electrical control signal that characterizes the desired user real-time control of the manually controllable rate meter;(b) providing an actuator that responds to a received electrical control signal and produces a calibrated mechanical output force in response to said received electrical control signal;(c) operatively connecting said electronic control means with said actuator for transfer of said electrical control signal to said actuator; and(d) mechanically securing said actuator in operative proximity to a manually adjustable primary control member of the manually controllable rate meter for movement of the manually adjustable primary control member in response to said calibrated mechanical output force.
  5. 28. The combination of an automatic control apparatus with an anhydrous ammonia applicator apparatus of the type suitable for pulling by a tractor over a surface to which the anhydrous ammonia is being applied, the applicator apparatus comprising:(a) a pressurable tank for holding the anhydrous ammonia;(b) at least one applicator head for applying the anhydrous ammonia in or onto the surface;(c) plumbing means for operatively interconnecting the pressurable tank and the at least one applicator head in fluid communication;(d) a rate meter interposed in said plumbing means for controllably regulating the flow of anhydrous ammonia to the at least one applicator head, said rate meter having manually adjustable mechanical control means of the type normally adjusted by a user; and(e) transport means suitable for connection to a tractor for operatively carrying the applicator apparatus elements (a) through (d) above, on and for movement relative to the surface; andsaid automatic control apparatus comprising:(a) user interface means configured for a mounting to a tractor pulling said applicator apparatus, for receiving user input information representing a desired application rate for the anhydrous ammonia to the surface and for displaying information related to the applicator apparatus operation for the user;(b) electronic means operatively connected to said user interface means for providing an electrical output control signal responsive to said user input information; and(c) actuator means operatively connected to receive said electrical output control signal and suitable for operative mechanical connection to the manually adjustable mechanical control means of the rate meter, for automatically mechanically controlling adjustment of said rate meter so as to cause the anhydrous ammonia dispensed by said applicator head to achieve the desired application rate; wherein said mechanical connection of the actuator means to said manually adjustable mechanical control means of the rate meter requires no alterations to be made to those portions of the pressurable tank, applicator head, plumbing means or rate meter through which the anhydrous ammonia flows.

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