Patent application title: Self-Fronting Spring Assembly for a Traffic Delineator
Gregory L. Hannah (San Antonio, TX, US)
Darryl Meek (Hounslow, GB)
Richard Elizondo (San Antonio, TX, US)
Impact Recovery Systems, Inc.
IPC8 Class: AE01F9017FI
Class name: Road structure, process, or apparatus traffic director yielding
Publication date: 2013-01-24
Patent application number: 20130022396
A spring assembly for a self-uprighting delineator. The assembly has a
rotationally self-aligning cam attached to a delineator post and
cooperating with an upper knuckle of the delineator to rotate the post
from a misaligned rotational position to a first frontally aligned
position. The cam has sloping surfaces which engage and slide along
complimentary sloping surfaces on the upper knuckle under compressive
forces of a spring which urges the cam and upper knuckle together. When
rotational forces are withdrawn, the post will return to the first
frontally aligned position
1. A spring assembly for a self-uprighting delineator, said delineator
having a post with a longitudinal axis and upper and lower load cell
elements, said load cell elements held in tension together by parallel,
spaced apart, wire cables and a main delineator spring, said upper load
cell element having an upper knuckle with an upper end and a lower end,
said lower end cooperating with said lower load cell element to
horizontally align said delineator when said post is moved from a first
upright position to a second horizontally misaligned position, said
spring assembly comprising: a self-aligning cam attached to said post,
said cam having an upper end and an opposite lower end, said lower cam
end cooperating with said upper end of said upper knuckle to rotate said
post from a misaligned rotational position to a first frontally aligned
2. The spring assembly of claim 1, further comprising a compression spring engaged with said upper cam end to urge said lower cam end against said upper end of said upper knuckle to rotate said post from said misaligned rotational position to said first frontally aligned position.
3. The spring assembly of claim 2, wherein said lower cam end has sloping cam surfaces which cooperate with sloping cam surfaces on said upper end of said upper knuckle to rotate said post from said misaligned rotational position to said first frontally aligned position.
4. The spring assembly of claim 3, wherein said lower cam end has an apex 180.degree. opposite a cam alignment notch and said upper knuckle end has an apex 180.degree. opposite a knuckle alignment notch, said cam apex disposed within said knuckle alignment notch when said post is in said first frontally aligned position.
5. The spring assembly of claim 4, further comprising a self-fronting center shaft, said shaft having a receptacle portion for retaining said main delineator spring and a hollow, generally cylindrical, body section for the through passage of said wire cables, said body section extending through a central opening in said compressive spring, through a central bore in said cam, and through a central bore in said upper knuckle to maintain said cam in longitudinal alignment with said upper knuckle when said post is being rotated about said longitudinal axis.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to traffic delineator systems; and, more particularly, to an improved delineator signage alignment mechanism. More specifically, the present invention relates to a self-fronting (or aligning) spring assembly acting in cooperation with an upper load cell of a traffic delineator alignment system.
 The present invention is an improvement to the traffic delineator alignment system described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717, which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes. It has been noted that despite efforts to reduce the effects of vandalism to existing delineators, certain individuals continue to twist delineator signage out of proper alignment with the intended flow of traffic. When delineators are misaligned, this creates a dangerous traffic condition where vehicle operators may be inadvertently misdirected.
 The present invention provides a mechanism which not only resists twisting misalignment of signage affixed to a horizontal delineator post, but provides a positive mechanism for ensuring that a twisted post returns to a proper front alignment position when the twisting movement is released or the signage is twisted beyond an approximate 180° position from the front alignment position.
 Thus, a traffic delineator incorporating both the horizontal alignment mechanism of U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717 and rotational alignment mechanism of the present invention vastly reduces the likelihood of signage misalignment in actual road/traffic conditions.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1A illustrates the present invention in a front elevation view with delineator signage and base member shown in broken lines for clarity.
 FIG. 1B is a front, right side, top perspective view of the present invention.
 FIG. 1C is a side elevation view of the delineator post having the spring assembly of the present invention in the yielded, horizontal position.
 FIG. 1D illustrates a perspective view of the load cell assembly yielding in a deflected position exposing the cables, the upper and lower knuckles, and the alignment edges.
 FIG. 2A shows the spring assembly of FIG. 1B in an exploded, front, elevation view.
 FIG. 2B is an exploded perspective view of the spring assembly of FIG. 1A.
 FIG. 3A illustrates a front elevation view of the upper knuckle of the present invention.
 FIG. 3B is a front, right side, perspective view of the upper knuckle of the present invention.
 FIG. 4A illustrates a front elevation view of the self-fronting cam of the present invention.
 FIG. 4B is a front, right side, perspective view of the self-fronting cam of the present invention.
 FIG. 5A illustrates a front elevation view of the self-fronting center shaft of the present invention.
 FIG. 5B is a front, right side, perspective view of the self-fronting center shaft of the present invention.
 FIGS. 6A-6E illustrate a sequential, single, counterclockwise rotation of the self-fronting cam about the center shaft of the present invention. FIG. 6A shows the cam in the first front position; FIG. 6B shows a counterclockwise rotation of approximately 90°; FIG. 6C illustrates the cam rotated counterclockwise approximately 180°; FIG. 6D illustrates the cam rotated counterclockwise approximately 270°; FIG. 6E shows the cam rotated counter-clockwise between 270° and 360°.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 Referring now to the drawings and first to FIG. 1A, a self-uprighting delineator post construction is illustrated generally at 10 which incorporates a base 12 (shown in broken lines for clarity), a load cell assembly 30, and a lightweight post 16 (shown in broken lines for clarity). The delineator has a longitudinal axis L.
 The upper end of the lightweight post may be provided with a reflector 18 which may be attached with adhesive, bolted on or otherwise attached to the lightweight post 16 to provide reflection of light, thus permitting the post to be readily visible under night driving conditions. The post 16 and the reflector 18 may be of a suitable color enabling it to be readily visible during daylight conditions. The material composing the post 16 may comprise any one of a number of suitable lightweight polymer materials that are impact resistant. Since the post is of lightweight construction, it does not present significant resistance to impact forces when it is accidentally struck such as by an automotive vehicle. This feature prevents damage to the post and also prevents damage to the automotive vehicle as the post is accidentally struck and shifted from the upright position shown in FIG. 1A to the deflected or yielded, horizontal position shown in FIG. 1C. The longitudinal axis is, thus, deflected horizontally.
 U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717 teaches and discloses an uprighting mechanism which will improve the alignment of the post/signage when impacted and deflected from the horizontal position. The present invention provides a mechanism for realigning the past/signage when impact forces (accidental or intentional) create rotation about the longitudinal axis of the post.
 FIG. 1B is a perspective view of the self-fronting spring assembly 110 of the present invention without showing the base 12, the signage 18 or the outer post 16. A load cell assembly is illustrated generally at 30 which incorporates an upper load cell element 32 and a lower load cell element 34 which is supported by a base assembly generally shown at 12 (broken lines, FIG. 1A). The base assembly 12 incorporates a base plate 38 forming a lower surface 40 that is prepared in any suitable fashion to be placed (bonded or portable) to any suitable surface 5, such as a roadway surface. Additional details of the operation and cooperation of the elements of the load cell assembly may be understood by a review of U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717 (incorporated herein by reference for all purposes).
 As shown in FIG. 1D, the lower load cell element 34 is provided with parallel, spaced apart cable channels 33a and 33b through which pass wire cables 46a and 46b, respectively. The cables are retained in the lower load cell element by a lower cable sleeve 39 (not shown, but see FIGS. 2A and 2B). The upper and lower load cell elements are held in tension together by the cables and the compressive force of main delineator spring 100, as may be understood from FIGS. 1A and 1B. The main spring 100 urges against main spring receptacle 74 and main spring flange shoulder washer 102 (see FIGS. 2A and 28).
 In the present invention, as shown in FIGS. 1B and 2A, the upper load cell element 32 includes an upper knuckle 20, a self-fronting cam 22, a self-fronting cam spring 24, and self-fronting center shaft 26. The post/signage are attached or affixed to the cam portion 22 of the upper load cell element 32 by fasteners 11a (see FIG. 1A). As will be seen below, the cam portion 22 may rotate about the longitudinal axis L of the post.
 FIG. 2A shows upper load cell 32 in an exploded, front elevation view. Shown in FIG. 2A are the lower load cell element 34, delineator cables 46a and 46b with upper and lower cable sleeves 37 and 39, main spring 100, and flange shoulder washer 102. FIG. 2B is an exploded, perspective view of FIG. 2A.
 As seen in FIGS. 3A and 3B, upper knuckle 20 has a body portion 21, opposing a sloping surfaces 23a and 23b, a central bore 50 for receiving the lower end 27 of self-fronting center shaft 26, two parallel, spaced apart cable channels 43a and 43b, a post support shoulder 51, opposing tapering cap surfaces 56a and 56b, and alignment edge 58. As has been described in detail in U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717, upper knuckle 20 cooperates with lower knuckle 34 along tapering cap surfaces 56a, 56b, and alignment edge 58 to ensure the proper alignment of the post when it returns to a first upright position shown in FIG. 1 from a deflect position shown in FIG. 1C. FIG. 1D illustrates the cooperation of these elements.
 The upper knuckle 20 of the present invention further utilizes opposing sloping surfaces 23a and 23b, a knuckle alignment notch 25 opposite an upper knuckle apex 67 to cooperate with complementary portions of the self-fronting cam 22 (FIGS. 4A and 4B) to ensure that when the signage 18 or post 16, which are affixed to cam 22, are twisted rotationally about the delineator's longitudinal axis L, the signage is urged back to a first front position by the cooperation of the sloping surfaces sliding across one another against the compressive forces of cam spring 24. When the present invention is incorporated into a traffic delineator system, signage is prevented from misaligning rotationally. This is the aspect referred to herein as the self-fronting feature of the present invention.
 As noted above, the post/signage is rigidly attached to the self-fronting cam 22 by fasteners 11a passing through holes 11 in the cam 22 or adhesive. As shown in detail in FIGS. 4A and 4B, it may be seen that cam 22 has body portion 22a, a central bore 60, a recessed cam spring shoulder 62, and complementary sloping cam surfaces 64a and 64b, with a cam alignment notch 66 opposite a cam apex 68. Cam 22 may have fastener holes 11. Fasteners 11a are used to affix the post/signage.
 As will be seen below, it is the cooperation of the sloping surfaces 23a and 23b on the upper knuckle 20 and the sloping surfaces 64a and 64b on the self-fronting cam 22 which facilitate the prevention of rotational misalignment of signage or post when these two components are urged together by the compressive force of self-fronting cam spring 24.
 Cam spring 24 is shown in FIG. 2A as a coil spring with a lower end fitting into the upper portion of cam 22 and resting at its lower end 63 on cam spring shoulder 62. The coil spring has a central opening 70 through which the elongated, cylindrical section 29 of self-fronting center shaft 26 may slidingly pass.
 The upper end 65 of spring 24 (FIGS. 2A and 2B) urges against the underside bearing surface 72 of the main spring receptacle 74 at the top of the self-fronting center shaft 26 when the delineator 10 is assembled (see FIGS. 1 and 1A). It is the compression of spring 24 which urges the sloping surfaces 23a and 23b, and 64a and 64b on upper knuckle 20 and cam 22 respectively into tension against one another thereby restricting rotation of cam 22 about the delineator longitudinal axis.
 FIGS. 5A and 5B show the details of the self-fronting center shaft 26. Shaft 26 has a main spring receptacle 74 at the top 76 of a generally cylindrical body section 29. Two parallel, spaced apart cable channels 73a and 73b extend from the receptacle 74 at the top 76 to the end 27 of the shaft. These channels 73a and 73b are adapted to receive and allow to pass therethrough wire cables 46a and 46b as will be further understood below.
 The body section 29 of shaft 26 extends through central opening 70 of spring 24, through central bore 60 of the cam 22, and through central bore 50 in the upper knuckle 20 when the spring assembly 110 is assembled. Cam 22 is able to move vertically up or down along body section 29 as the cam is rotated about the delineator longitudinal axis L when the post/signage is rotated.
 It may be understood from a review of the figures that the upper 30 and lower 32 load elements are held together in tension by the compressive force of main delineator spring 100 and the wire cables 46a and 46b. This mechanism may be further understood in U.S. Pat. No. 7,377,717.
 Various elements of the spring assembly 110 of the present invention are also held in position and alignment by these cables as seen by the figures; however, the cam 22 may rotate and move vertically about the elongated, cylindrical section 29 of self-fronting center shaft 26.
 Such rotation and vertical movement, nonetheless, requires substantial force, because of the compressive urging of spring 24 which presses against the shoulder 62 in the cam 22 and against the underside, bearing surface 72 of center shaft 26. Thus, it is difficult to rotate the sign or post by twisting and when the twisting force is released, the cam 22 is urged back to the first, aligned position.
 FIGS. 6A-6E illustrate the operation of the self-fronting spring assembly 110 of the present invention. A single, counterclockwise rotation is illustrated. It should be understood that an impact force (accident or intentional) may cause the post/signage to rotate in a clockwise direction as well. The present invention will operate the same irrespective of the direction of the rotation force.
 In FIG. 6A, the assembly 110 (without the post or signage being shown) is in a first, frontally aligned position. The upper knuckle 20 and the self-fronting cam 22 are urged into engagement with one another by the self-fronting spring 24. Knuckle alignment notch 25 is interlocked with cam apex 68.
 Upon rotation impact to the signage or post which is attached to the self-fronting cam 22 through fastener holes 11, the rotational force is impacted to the self-fronting cam 22. Cam 22 begins to rotate counterclockwise. Sloping cam surfaces 64a and 64b begin to slide over sloping surfaces 23a and 23b of upper knuckle 20 and cam 22 is displaced upwardly from knuckle 20. The sloping surfaces 64a, 64b, 23a, and 23b remain in contact because of the spring force from self-fronting spring 24 being transmitted to cam 22.
 Upper knuckle 20 does not rotate because it is held in engagement with lower load cell element 34 by the compressive force of main delineator spring 100 and wire cables 46a and 46b. Thus, if the rotational force being imparted is withdrawn from the post or signage, self-fronting cam being urged downwardly by spring 24 will slide along the sloping surfaces, rotating back clockwise, and return to the first frontally aligned position. From this brief explanation, it would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that assembly 110 is "self-fronting."
 FIG. 6B illustrates the condition of the assembly 110 when the rotational impact force is continued to be imparted to the post or signage. FIG. 6B shows rotation at approximately 90° counterclockwise. Cam 22 has moved upwardly, compressing spring 24 as cam sloping surface 64b continues to slide along knuckle sloping surface 23b. Again, if the counterclockwise rotational force is withdrawn at this point, cam 22 will rotate back clockwise, sliding downwardly along surface 23b of upper knuckle 20 under the compressive spring force of spring 24, and return to the first, frontally aligned position shown in FIG. 6A.
 If however, the counterclockwise rotational impacting force is continued, the assembly 110 will move further upwardly against the downwardly urging compressive force of spring 24 as shown in FIG. 6C. FIG. 6C illustrates the rotational approximately 180° counterclockwise from the first frontally aligned position.
 It will be understood that when the assembly 110 is in the position of FIG. 6C, cam apex 68 is in contact with knuckle apex 67 against the force of spring 24. Because these apexes have sloping surfaces away from each apex, if the rotational force is continued, the cam 22 will "flip over" the knuckle apex 67 and continue to rotate counterclockwise being urged downwardly along knuckle sloping surface 23a by the force of the spring 24 until apex 68 interlocks with knuckle alignment notch 25. If the rotational force is withdrawn before cam 22 flips over, the cam 22 will rotate back clockwise and slide back to the first frontally aligned position. In either case, the assembly will "self-align" to the first frontally aligned position of FIG. 6A and the post and signage will be in their proper position.
 The "flip over" condition is shown in FIG. 6D, where the cam 22 has rotated approximately 270° from the first frontally aligned position. Sloping cam surface 64a is being urged against sloping knuckle surface 23a by spring 24 and the cam continues to rotate counterclockwise and move downwardly toward the aligned position. No impacting rotational force is required for the post or signage to return to the front position.
 FIG. 6E shows the cam 22 nearly back to the first frontally aligned position. The spring 24 applies downward force to cam 22 urging it to slide along the sloping surfaces and back to a position with the cam apex 68 in knuckle alignment notch 25.
 It should be understood that if a clockwise rotational force impacts or is imparted to the post or sign, the cam 22 will rotate in a clockwise direction and operate a fashion similar to that described above. The post or signage will "self-align" when the rotational force is withdrawn or the cam "flips over" the knuckle apex 67.
 Although the invention has been described with reference to a certain embodiment, this description is not meant to be construed in a limiting sense. On the contrary, various modifications of the disclosed embodiment will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reference to the description of the invention. It is therefore contemplated that the appended claims will cover such modifications, alternatives, and equivalents that fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Gregory L. Hannah, San Antonio, TX US
Patent applications in class Yielding
Patent applications in all subclasses Yielding