Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winch with automatic clutch assembly

This invention relates to an electric winch and clutch assembly which is exceptionally compact in size and includes an automatically operated clutch that is readily engaged and disengaged without binding.

Electric winches are old in the art, as are those where an electric motor is mounted within the spool portion of the winch. It is also known to include with such winches a clutch mechanism of some type for engaging and releasing the spool. However, it is not believed to be known a winch and clutch assembly as hereinafter described which is of the exceptionally compact design provided by this invention and which includes a clutch assembly automatically engaged and disengaged in response to the direction of rotation of a driving member and which is readily engaged and disengaged without binding.

The winch and clutch assembly of this invention generally comprises a rotatable spool having an electric motor mounted therein for operation in both the forward and reverse directions, the electric motor having a housing and drive shaft. The spool is rotatably mounted on the motor housing and a gear train assembly is mounted at one end of the housing for transmitting power from the motor shaft to a driving gear which is concentric therewith. At that same end of the housing is located a driven member associated with and secured to the spool and which is also concentric with the motor shaft. The driving gear and the driven member have adjacent annular surfaces and there is mounted between the gear and member a clutch assembly which is uniquely designed to be readily engaged and disengaged without binding in response to the direction of rotation of the driving gear.

Hence, it is a primary object of this invention to provide a winch and clutch assembly which is exceptionally compact in design and which includes a clutch which is automatically and readily engaged and disengaged and thus particularly useful for those applications where the spool is to be driven in one direction and released for free rotation in the opposite direction. It is a further primary object of the invention to provide such an assembly wherein there is included an electric drive motor mounted within the spool, and wherein the clutch is automatically engaged and disengaged in response to the direction of rotation of a driving member without the use of any wedging action which could cause binding.

The construction of the winch and clutch assembly of this invention provides a very compact design with the motor mounted within the spool and the gear train drive at one end. The clutch assembly further adds to the compactness of the design in providing an automatically engaging and disengaging clutch that requires virtually no additional space. It is additionally significant that the clutch assembly 180 operates in respose to the direction of rotation of the driving gear 176 and without any "wedging" action that could cause binding of the clutch and thereby prevent ready disengagement for releasing the anchor or other load. The pin 200 is "clamped" between the rounded surfaces 183 and 195 when the clutch is engaged and there is no wedging action at all. With the clamping action described, the clutch is readily disengaged by simple reversal of the winch, without any fear of binding.

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