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Title:
DIGITAL HYDRAULIC SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/161259
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A digital hydraulic system includes linear extending and retracting actuators. Each actuator has an actuator arm coupled to a body in parallel to the other actuators. Each actuator includes a high pressure valve having an inlet coupled to a high pressure reservoir and an outlet in fluid communication with a piston cylinder above a piston of the actuator and a low pressure valve having an inlet in fluid communication with the piston cylinder above the piston and an outlet coupled to a fluid reservoir. The valves include a bi-directional sealing member positioned between a valve head and a valve seal and a cam whereby rotation of the cam causes movement of the valve head between the first position and the second position and whereby movement of the valve head to the first position holds the bi-directional sealing member in the first closed position.

Inventors:
MCCULLOUGH, John (P.O.Box 2993, Salt Lake City, UT, 84110, US)
SCROGGIN, Wayco (1085 East 11780 South, Sandy, UT, 84094, US)
Application Number:
US2019/018295
Publication Date:
August 22, 2019
Filing Date:
February 15, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
JACOBSEN INNOVATIONS, INC. (28 South 400 East, Salt Lake City, UT, 84111, US)
International Classes:
F04B1/04; F04B1/053; F04B1/07
Foreign References:
US3282049A1966-11-01
US6564547B12003-05-20
US3179057A1965-04-20
US20060013701A12006-01-19
US20100284841A12010-11-11
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COMPAGNI, Frank, W. et al. (Morriss O'Bryant Compagni Cannon, PLLC4505 S. Wasatch Boulevard, Suite 27, Salt Lake City UT, 84124, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A digital hydraulic system, comprising:

a plurality of linear extending and retracting actuators, each of the plurality of

actuators having an actuator arm coupled to a body in parallel to the other of the plurality of actuators, each of the plurality of actuators comprising:

a high pressure valve having an inlet coupled to a high pressure reservoir and an outlet in fluid communication with a piston cyhigh-pressurea piston; a low pressure valve having an inlet in fluid communication with the piston cylinder above the piston and an outlet coupled to a fluid reservoir, each of the high pressure valve and the low pressure valve, comprising:

a valve body defining an inner chamber in fluid communication with the inlet and the outlet;

a valve head positioned within the inner chamber, the valve head moveable between a first position and a second position;

a valve seal defining an aperture in fluid communication with the inlet and having a sealing surface;

a bi-directional sealing member positioned between the valve head and the valve seal, the bi-directional sealing member movable between a first closed position where the bi-directional sealing member engages with the valve head to seal the aperture and a second open position where the bi-directional sealing member disengages from the valve head to allow flow through the aperture of the valve seal; and

a cam engaged with a first surface of the valve head, whereby rotation of the cam causes movement of the valve head between the first position and the second position and whereby movement of the valve head to the first position holds the bi-directional sealing member in the first closed position.

2. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the inner chamber defines an inner cylindrical wall and the valve head is sized and shaped to slidably engage the inner cylindrical wall and the bidirectional sealing member is disc-shaped.

3. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the valve inlet is positioned below the sealing member and the outlet comprises a port in fluid communication with the inner chamber at a position above the sealing member. 4. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , further comprising a head seal interposed between the valve head and the inner wall to form a slidable seal therein between.

5. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the valve seal comprises a flexible flap held in a fixed position along a first side relative to the inner chamber and sealed to one side of the sealing surface and having a second side that is free to move from a resting position on the sealing surface to a flexed position into the inner chamber where the second side disengages from he sealing surface with a change in fluid pressure between the inlet and the outlet to allow a flow through the inlet.

6. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the sealing member is disc- shaped having an outer rim portion that is fixed to the sealing surface, defines a central aperture that is in fluid communication with the inlet, and has a flexible inner portion around the aperture that can move from a resting position to a flexed position where the flexible portion extends into the inner chamber.

7. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the valve head comprises a body portion having a distal end for engagement with the sealing member and a proximal end defining a cam engagement surface in contact with the cam, whereby rotation of the cam causes movement of the valve head between the first position and the second position.

8. The digital hydraulic system of claim 7, wherein the cam comprises a cylindrical body having a semicircular side and a flat side the forms a chordally extending surface, the cam forcing the valve head toward the sealing member when the semicircular side engages the valve head and allowing the valve head to move in a direction away from the sealing member when the flat side engages the valve head.

9. The digital hydraulic system of claim 8, further comprising a biasing member interposed between the valve head and the inner chamber to apply a biasing force the valve head away from the sealing member, the cam providing sufficient force against the valve head when the semicircular side of the cylindrical body forces the valve head toward the sealing member to overcome the biasing force of the biasing member.

10. The digital hydraulic system of claim 6, further comprising a spherical member interposed between a distal end of the valve head and the sealing member, the spherical member having a diameter greater than a diameter of the aperture of the sealing member.

1 1. The digital hydraulic system of claim 10, wherein when the valve head is in the first position, the distal end of the valve head forces the spherical member into engagement with the sealing member to seal the inlet and when the valve head is in the second position, the valve head moves in a direction away from the spherical member to open the inlet.

12. The digital hydraulic system of claim 10, wherein when the valve head is in transition between the first position and the second position, a pressure differential between the inlet and the outlet causes the inner portion to flex and seal against the spherical member until the valve head moves to the second position.

13. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , further comprising a motor coupled to the cams to control rotation of the cams and thereby control opening and closing of the high pressure and low pressure valves.

13. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , further comprising a digital control system coupled to the motor to control operation of the motor to selectively open and close the high pressure and low-pressure valves.

14. The digital hydraulic system of claim 13, further comprising a plurality of electronically controlled mechanisms coupled to the motor, each of the plurality of electronically controlled mechanisms being independently controllable by the digital control system to selectively activate or deactivate any or all of the plurality of actuators.

15. The digital hydraulic system of claim 13, wherein the motor is coupled to each of the plurality of cams by a plurality of drive shafts that interconnect the plurality of cams.

16. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein at least some of the plurality of actuators have different diameters.

17. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein each of the plurality of actuators comprise a piston cylinder with a piston slidably disposed within the piston cylinder, the actuator arm coupled to a distal end of the piston and extending from the distal end of the piston cylinder.

18. The digital hydraulic system of claim 17, wherein the plurality of actuators each further comprise a biasing member disposed between the distal end of the piston and a distal end of the piston cylinder to bias the actuator arm into the piston cylinder.

19. The digital hydraulic system of claim 17, wherein the outlet of the high pressure valve and the inlet of the low pressure valve of each of the plurality of actuators are in fluid communication with the piston cylinder between a proximal end of the piston and a proximal end of the piston cylinder.

20. The digital hydraulic system of claim 1 , wherein the high pressure valve cam and the low pressure valve cam are synchronized in their respective rotations such that when the high pressure valve is open, the low pressure valve is closed and when the low pressure valve is closed, the high pressure valve is open.

Description:
DIGITAL HYDRAULIC SYSTEM

BACKGROUND

Field of the Invention: The present invention relates generally to hydraulic systems, and more particularly to digital hydraulic systems for use in actuators, dampening systems or other applications where highly efficient and effective digital hydraulic systems have particular applicability.

State of the Prior Art: Many prior art hydraulic systems require a reservoir of fluid under pressure. For example, as shown in FIG. 7, a prior art hydraulic system employs a“Low Pressure Accumulator” or reservoir of fluid at a pressure PL. The pump pumps the hydraulic fluid from the Low Pressure Accumulator up into the “High Pressure Accumulator” at pressure PH. Pressure PH is a set pressure that is the maximum pressure the system is required to handle. The fluid at pressure PH then flows through Valve 1 , which is a restricted flow orifice, into the“Actuator” which is at pressure PA. Pressure PA / Area of“Piston” = the force of the“Spring.” Thus, in operation, Valve 1 is burning energy off and expelling it as heat. The energy burned off is the (PH-PA) x Volume flowed. The Piston in the actuator moves to the right as fluid enters and the spring is compressed. When it is desired for the piston to move back to the left, Valve 1 is closed and Valve 2 is opened. Valve 2 then bleeds off hydraulic energy and expels it as heat. The energy bled off is (PA-PL) x Volume flowed. Thus, the spring pushes on the piston moving it to the left. The fluid flows out through Valve 2 and into the Low Pressure Accumulator. As a result, traditional hydraulics, as illustrated in the hydraulic system of FIG. 7, is highly inefficient. For example, the maximum power a prior art hydraulic system needs must be stored in the High Pressure Accumulator and that energy is burned off as heat to get the pressure PH down to the desired pressure PA. In addition, the stored energy in the spring is burned off as heat again when pressure PA is lowered to pressure PL. If the pump is coupled to an engine or motor that cannot change flow rates, then the pump has to operate at the maximum flow rate that may be needed and the excess flow is burned off by passing the extra fluid through the bypass valve. If the power source is variable in speed and the pump is supplying an average flow of the system the bypass valve may not be required. The end result, however, is that in traditional hydraulics, the system will use significantly higher power than is required. For example, even though a desired mechanical power out may only be 1 horse power, the system may use 5 horse power to achieve it. That means that 4 horse power must be expelled, such as by heat. As a result, such prior art hydraulic systems often employ large radiators to deal with the excess heat. In addition, traditional hydraulics have an additional loss in that the valves (represented here as valvel and valve 2) may be servo valves. High performance servo valves burn energy even when they are not actuating. For example, a typical servo valve can burn up to 120W of energy in a resting position.

While some construction equipment utilizes two sets of actuators in parallel and can therefore shift between one actuator and two, such a system is not true digital hydraulics since the valves are still conventional valves, such as servo valves, that throttle hydraulic energy out in the form of heat. Such prior art dual actuator systems utilize traditional hydraulics by employing a hydraulic gear shift. Thus, there is a need in the art to provide a digital hydraulics system that utilizes a plurality of actuators that can individually and selectively be connected to the high pressure (PH) or connected to the low pressure PL.

Advantages: The digital hydraulic systems of the present invention are reliable, capable of accurate and repeatable operation and inexpensive to

manufacture. Furthermore, the digital hydraulic systems of the present invention can be used in various applications. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A digital hydraulic system of the present invention utilizes valves in

accordance with the principles of the present invention. The digital hydraulic system includes a plurality of linear extending and retracting actuators. Each of the plurality of actuators has an actuator arm coupled to a body in parallel to the other of the plurality of actuators. Each of the actuators include a high pressure valve having an inlet coupled to a high pressure reservoir and an outlet in fluid communication with a piston cylinder above a piston. A low pressure valve has an inlet in fluid

communication with the piston cylinder above the piston and an outlet coupled to a fluid reservoir. The high pressure valve and the low pressure valve are each comprised of a valve body defining an inner chamber in fluid communication with the inlet and the outlet. A valve head is positioned within the inner chamber and is moveable between a first position and a second position. A valve seal defines an aperture in fluid communication with the inlet and has a sealing surface. A bi- directional sealing member is positioned between the valve head and the valve seal. The bi-directional sealing member positioned between the valve head and the valve seal, the bi-directional sealing member movable between a first closed position where the bi-directional sealing member engages with the valve head to seal the aperture and a second open position where the bi-directional sealing member disengages from the valve head to allow flow through the aperture of the valve sea.

A cam engages with a first surface of the valve head, whereby rotation of the cam causes movement of the valve head between the first position and the second position and whereby movement of the valve head to the first position holds the bi- directional sealing member in the first closed position.

In another embodiment, the inner chamber defines an inner cylindrical wall and the valve head is sized and shaped to slidably engage the inner cylindrical wall and the bidirectional sealing member is disc-shaped.

In another embodiment, the valve inlet is positioned below the sealing member and the outlet comprises a port in fluid communication with the inner chamber at a position above the sealing member.

In another embodiment, a head seal is interposed between the valve head and the inner wall to form a slidable seal therein between.

In another embodiment, the valve seal comprises a flexible flap held in a fixed position along a first side relative to the inner chamber and sealed to one side of the sealing surface and having a second side that is free to move from a resting position on the sealing surface to a flexed position into the inner chamber where the second side disengages from he sealing surface with a change in fluid pressure between the inlet and the outlet to allow a flow through the inlet.

In another embodiment, the sealing member is disc-shaped having an outer rim portion that is fixed to the sealing surface, defines a central aperture that is in fluid communication with the inlet, and has a flexible inner portion around the aperture that can move from a resting position to a flexed position where the flexible portion extends into the inner chamber.

In another embodiment, the valve head comprises a body portion having a distal end for engagement with the sealing member and a proximal end defining a cam engagement surface in contact with the cam, whereby rotation of the cam causes movement of the valve head between the first position and the second position.

In another embodiment, the cam comprises a cylindrical body having a semicircular side and a flat side the forms a chordally extending surface, the cam forcing the valve head toward the sealing member when the semicircular side engages the valve head and allowing the valve head to move in a direction away from the sealing member when the flat side engages the valve head.

In another embodiment, a biasing member is interposed between the valve head and the inner chamber to apply a biasing force the valve head away from the sealing member, the cam providing sufficient force against the valve head when the semicircular side of the cylindrical body forces the valve head toward the sealing member to overcome the biasing force of the biasing member.

In another embodiment, a spherical member is interposed between a distal end of the valve head and the sealing member, the spherical member having a diameter greater than a diameter of the aperture of the sealing member.

In another embodiment, when the valve head is in the first position, the distal end of the valve head forces the spherical member into engagement with the sealing member to seal the inlet and when the valve head is in the second position, the valve head moves in a direction away from the spherical member to open the inlet.

In another embodiment, when the valve head is in transition between the first position and the second position, a pressure differential between the inlet and the outlet causes the inner portion to flex and seal against the spherical member until the valve head moves to the second position.

In another embodiment, a motor is coupled to the cams to control rotation of the cams and thereby control opening and closing of the high pressure and low pressure valves.

In another embodiment, a digital control system coupled to the motor to control operation of the motor to selectively open and close the high pressure and low pressure valves.

In another embodiment, a plurality of electronically controlled mechanisms coupled to the motor, each of the plurality of electronically controlled mechanisms being independently controllable by the digital control system to selectively activate or deactivate any or all of the plurality of actuators.

In another embodiment, the motor is coupled to each of the plurality of cams by a plurality of drive shafts that interconnect the plurality of cams.

In another embodiment, at least some of the plurality of actuators have different diameters. In another embodiment, each of the plurality of actuators comprises a piston cylinder with a piston slideably disposed within the piston cylinder, the actuator arm coupled to a distal end of the piston and extending from the distal end of the piston cylinder.

In another embodiment, the plurality of actuators each further comprises a biasing member disposed between the distal end of the piston and a distal end of the piston cylinder to bias the actuator arm into the piston cylinder.

In another embodiment, the outlet of the high pressure valve and the inlet of the low pressure valve of each of the plurality of actuators are in fluid communication with the piston cylinder between a proximal end of the piston and a proximal end of the piston cylinder.

In another embodiment, the high pressure valve cam and the low pressure valve cam are synchronized in their respective rotations such that when the high pressure valve is open, the low pressure valve is closed and when the low pressure valve is closed, the high pressure valve is open.

In one embodiment of a valve in accordance with the present invention, the valve is comprised of a valve body within which is contained a valve head, valve closing member and valve seal. The valve body includes a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet. The valve head resides within a cylinder wall and is vertically movable within the space defined by the cylinder wall. The valve seal resides above the inlet and includes a central aperture that is arranged concentrically with the inlet so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture. The valve seal is retained on its outer perimeter by a seal recess formed within the valve body. The valve closing body may be a valve flap that is held along one side to the valve body with the other side of the valve flap able to lift relative to the valve seal. The valve closing body may alternatively be a valve ball that is able to close the valve seal when in contact therewith and to open the valve seal when moved away from the valve seal.

The inlet is a port in the valve body on the valve seal side. The outlet is a port in the valve body that enters the valve head chamber. When the valve head is mechanically timed to be open and the outlet pressure is higher than the inlet pressure, the resulting reverse fluid flow forces the valve closing body against the valve seal, thus stopping the flow of fluid through the valve. The pressure differential forces the valve closing member into the valve seal to self-energize the seal into a closed position. When the valve head is mechanically timed to be open and the inlet pressure is higher than the outlet, then the pressure differential lifts the valve closing member to allow flow through the valve. When the valve head is mechanically timed to be closed and the outlet pressure is higher than the inlet pressure, the pressure differential forces the valve closing member into the valve seal to stop flow and the valve head has the valve closing member against the valve seal so that no flow occurs to move the valve closing member into the valve seal. When the valve head is mechanically timed to be closed and the inlet pressure is higher than the outlet pressure, the pressure differential wants to lift the valve closing member away from the valve seal. The position of the valve head, however, holds the valve closing member in place and the differential pressure lifts the valve seal into the valve closing member, thus energizing the seal. As such the seal lifts into the valve closing member to increase the sealing contact between the valve closing member and the valve seal. Moreover, no fluid flow is necessary to move the valve closing member into the valve seal. Conversely, in a typical check valve there is always some back flow of fluid required to close the check valve. The valve of the present invention is mechanically timed so that the valve head moves the valve closing member into a closed position. When mechanically timed to be open, the valve closing member acts like a typical check valve and is subject to some closing back flow, but when mechanically timed to be closed it is already in a closed position.

As discussed herein, the valves of the present invention utilize a bi-directional self-energizing seal. In another embodiment of a valve in accordance with the present invention the valve is comprised of a valve body within which is contained a valve head and a self-energizing valve seal. The valve body includes a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet. The valve head resides within a cylinder wall and is vertically movable within the space defined by the cylinder wall. The valve seal resides above the inlet and includes a central aperture that is arranged concentrically with the inlet so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture. The valve seal is retained on its outer perimeter by a seal recess formed within the valve body. Here, the valve head need only make contact with the self-energizing valve seal. When the valve is closing, the valve head is moved closer to the valve seal.

As the gap between the valve seal gets smaller the flow velocity in the gap between the valve head and the valve seal increases to create a Bernouli effect that lifts the valve seal into contact with the valve head. As a result, the Bernouli effect quickly closes the valve with low system energy even against a pressure differential. When the valve seal touches the valve head, a positive flow of fluid through the valve immediately stops and a positive pressure differential between the inlet and outlet of the valve will lift the valve seal into the valve head. If there is a negative pressure differential between the inlet and the outlet (i.e. , the outlet pressure is greater than the inlet pressure), the fluid pressure from outlet will force the valve head into the valve seal. Because the valve seal is able to lift itself into contact with the valve head, which is opposite from prior art valves, and because the valve head can be forced into the valve seal, the valve of the present invention is capable of bi- directional, self-energizing operation. When the valve opens, if there is a positive pressure differential with the inlet side being higher than the outlet side, the positive pressure differential assists in opening the valve.

Once contact with the valve head is made upon the seal, the seal uses the fluid pressure of fluid flowing through the valve to energize the seal. As the fluid pressure increase, the seal increases its sealing force. Thus when operating at low pressure, such as 3 psi, the seal only uses enough force to seal 3 psi. At higher pressure, such as 100 psi, the self-energizing seal automatically increases its sealing force and prevents fluid flow through the valve.

The bi-directional self-energizing seals of the present invention require low energy to operate, but are capable of sealing against high pressure, such as a 100 psi or more pressure drop, regardless of whether the pressure on the valve is from inlet to outlet or from outlet to inlet.

The valves of the present invention also utilize both passive and mechanically operated valve features. The passive valve features have the advantages of being easy to manufacture and prevent any back flow in the system regardless of the state of the valve and its associated system. Such passive valve features, however, can allow free flow in the opposite direction.

In order to actuate the valve head of the valve according to the present invention, in one embodiment, the valve utilizes a rotatable cam, cam shaft or other timing mechanism to mechanically open and close the valve. The timing of the rotation of the cam prevents the occurrence of free flow in the system. Moreover, because the cam and an associated crank shaft are of a unitary construction, a plurality of valves, each operated by a corresponding cam operated by a single crank shaft, prevent any possible mistiming of the plurality of valves. That is, the timing mechanism can be configured to ensure that at least one valve is always in a closed position to prevent flow of fluid through the system when one or more of the other valves in the system may be open. By combing passive and mechanical valve features into a single valve according to the present invention, a system of a plurality of valves of the present invention can be timed relative to one another to prevent free flow while also being sensitive to pressure differential changes within each valve. Moreover, the bi-directional self-sealing seal in each valve provides a complete seal when outlet pressure of the valve surpasses the inlet pressure. That is the seal will increase its sealing force as the outlet pressure rises to prevent back flow through the valve. In the forward flow direction, when the valve is open the bi-directional self- sealing seal allows positive flow through the valve. Once the valve seal is

mechanically closed, however, the bi-directional self-sealing seal self-energizes to close the valve.

In systems where the valves of the present invention are incorporated and sterility of the system is paramount, the valves may utilize one or more additional seals on the various moving components. For instance, slide O-ring seals may be utilized to seal the high pressure portion of the system from atmospheric pressure.

In addition, rotary seals may be placed on the cam shaft to prevent contamination of the valve during operation. Such additional seals can be employed to create a sterile environment for both the inlet and outlet sides of the valve.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following detailed description of the illustrated embodiments is better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings exemplary embodiments which illustrate what is currently considered to be the best mode for carrying out the invention, it being understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the specific methods and instruments disclosed. In the drawings:

FIGS. 1 A-1 D are cross-sectional side views of a first embodiment of a valve in four states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIGS. 2A-2D are cross-sectional side views of a second embodiment of a valve in four states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention. FIGS. 3A-3D are cross-sectional side views of a third embodiment of a valve in four states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIGS. 4A-4D are cross-sectional side views of a fourth embodiment of a valve in four states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIGS. 5A-5C are cross-sectional side views of a fifth embodiment of a valve in three states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIGS. 6A-6C are cross-sectional side views of a sixth embodiment of a valve in three states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of a prior art hydraulic system.

FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram of a digital hydraulic system.

FIGS. 9A-9C are cross-sectional side views of a valve in various states of operation for use in a digital hydraulic system in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional side view of an actuator in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional side view of a pair of actuators in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIGS. 12A-12C are cross-sectional side views of a valve in various states of operation for use in a digital hydraulic system in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional side view of an actuator using two valves in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 14 is a schematic diagram of a prior art hydraulic system using a servo valve.

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional side view of a digital hydraulic system in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional side view of an actuator using two valves in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 17 is a cross-sectional side view of an actuator using two valves in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 18 is a cross-sectional side view of a digital hydraulic system comprising a plurality of actuators each using two valves in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional side view of another digital hydraulic system comprising a plurality of actuators each using two valves in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS

In the following description, and for the purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the various aspects of the invention. It will be understood, however, by those skilled in the relevant arts, that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, known structures and devices are shown or discussed more generally in order to avoid obscuring the invention. In many cases, a description of the operation is sufficient to enable one to implement the various forms of the invention. It should be noted that there are many different and alternative configurations, devices and technologies to which the disclosed inventions may be applied. Thus, the full scope of the invention is not limited to the examples that are described below.

As used herein, the term“valve head” refers to a movable rigid structure that either gives the sealing structure, such as a valve ball or a seal flap, space to move or moves into contact with the sealing structure to keep the sealing structure in contact with the valve seal. The valve head can be made of metal or plastic, but must be a rigid component.

“Valve ball” refers to a spherical object such as a Delrin ball. The valve ball may be made of other materials known in the art. The ball has a low mass so that it can be moved easily by fluid flow through the valve.

“Valve flap” refers to a structure formed from an elastomeric that is non- permeable, such as a flexible and resilient rubber or rubber-like compound including but not limited to silicon rubber. The valve flap may be made out of other suitable materials known in the art. The valve flap has sufficient flexibility to be deflected by fluid flow, but sufficient rigidity to maintain its general shape when deflected and to return to its original shape when not deflected by fluid flow.

“Valve seal” also refers to a structure formed from an elastomeric that is non- permeable, such as a flexible and resilient rubber or rubber-like compound including but not limited to silicon rubber. The valve seal includes a centrally located aperture through which fluid can flow when the valve seal is not closed by a valve flap or a valve ball.

With reference now to the drawings in which like reference characters designate like or similar parts throughout the several views, FIGS. 1 A-1 D illustrate a first embodiment of a bi-directional self-energizing valve, generally indicated at 100, in various states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The valve 100 is comprised of a valve body 102 within which is contained a valve head 104, a valve closing member in the form of a valve flap 106 and valve seal 108. The valve body 102 includes a fluid inlet 1 10 and a fluid outlet 1 12. The valve head 104 resides within a cylinder wall 1 14 and is vertically movable within the space 1 16 defined by the cylinder wall 1 14. The valve seal 108 resides above the inlet 1 10 and includes a central aperture 120 that is arranged concentrically with the inlet 1 10 so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture 120. The valve seal 108 is retained on its outer perimeter 122 by a seal recess 124 formed within the valve body 102. The valve flap 106 is held one end 126 to the valve body 102 with a portion of the valve flap 106 positioned within a valve flap recess 128 within the valve body 102.

As shown in FIG. 1A, the valve head 104 holds the valve flap 106 over the valve seal 108 to thereby create a seal between the valve seal 108 and the valve flap 106. This first valve state prevents a flow of fluid from the inlet 1 10 to the outlet 1 12. As the inlet pressure increases, as shown in FIG. 1 B, with the valve head still in contact with the upper surface 130 of the valve flap 106, due to the pressure differential between the inlet 1 10 and the outlet 112 and the flexible and resilient nature of the valve seal 108 and valve flap 106, in this second valve state the valve seal 108 is upwardly forced into the valve flap 106, effectively increasing the strength of the seal between the valve seal 108 and the valve flap 106 in proportion to the pressure differential between the valve inlet 1 10 and the valve outlet 1 12.

As shown in FIG. 1C, a third valve state occurs when the valve head 104 is lifted relative to the valve flap 106. When the inlet pressure is greater than the outlet pressure, as the valve head 104 is lifted, the proximal end 132 of the valve flap 106 is upwardly forced by fluid pressure toward the valve head 104. This allows fluid flow (as represented by arrows) through the inlet 110, through the aperture 120 of the valve seal 108 into the inner valve chamber 134 defined by the valve body 102 and out the outlet 1 12. As shown in FIG. 1 D, however, when the valve head 104 is still in a lifted position relative to the valve flap 106 and the inlet pressure drops below the outlet pressure, the pressure differential between the outlet 1 12 will force the valve flap 106 into contact with the valve seal 108, thereby sealing the aperture 120 of the valve seal 108. This movement of the valve flap 106 is further enhanced by the Bernoulli principle. The Bernoulli effect will initially cause the valve flap 106 to quickly move to the seal aperture 120 in the event of a reverse flow through the valve 100. In this fourth valve state, the engagement of the valve flap 106 with the valve seal prevents back flow through the outlet 1 12 and into the inlet 1 10 when the outlet pressure exceeds the inlet pressure. As the outlet pressure increases, the strength of the seal between the valve flap 106 and the valve seal 108 increases proportionately. As such, the valve flap 106 in combination with the valve seal 108 thus provide a bi- directional self-energizing seal for the bi-directional self-energizing valve 100.

FIGS. 2A-2D illustrate a second embodiment of a bi-directional self-energizing valve, generally indicated at 200, in various states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The valve 200 is comprised of a valve body 202 within which is contained a valve head 204, a valve closing member in the form of a valve ball 206 and valve seal 208. The valve body 202 includes a fluid inlet 210 and a fluid outlet 212. The valve head 204 resides within a cylinder wall 214 and is vertically movable within the space 216 defined by the cylinder wall 214. The valve seal 208 resides above the inlet 210 and includes a central aperture 220 that is arranged concentrically with the inlet 210 so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture 220. The valve seal 208 is retained on its outer perimeter 222 by a seal recess 224 formed within the valve body 202. The valve ball 206 is a bi-directional sealing member that performs a similar bi-directional sealing function as the valve flap 106 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 1A-1 D. The valve ball 206 is positioned within an inner valve chamber 234 defined by the valve body 202 that is in fluid communication with both the inlet 210 and outlet 212 of the valve body 202.

As shown in FIG. 2A, the valve head 204 holds the valve ball 206 over the valve seal 208 to thereby create a seal between the valve seal 208 and the valve ball 206. This first valve state prevents a flow of fluid from the inlet 210 to the outlet 212. As the inlet pressure increases, as shown in FIG. 2B, with the valve head 204 still in contact with the upper surface 230 of the valve ball 206, due to the pressure differential between the inlet 210 and the outlet 212 and the flexible and resilient nature of the valve seal 208 and valve ball 206, in this second valve state the valve seal 208 is upwardly forced into the valve ball 206, effectively increasing the strength of the seal between the valve seal 208 and the valve ball 206 in proportion to the pressure differential between the valve inlet 210 and the valve outlet 212.

As shown in FIG. 2C, a third valve state occurs when the valve head 204 is lifted relative to the valve ball 206. When the inlet pressure is greater than the outlet pressure, as the valve head 204 is lifted, the valve ball 206 is upwardly forced by fluid pressure toward the valve head 204. This allows fluid flow (as represented by arrows) through the inlet 210, through the aperture 220 of the valve seal 208 into the inner valve chamber 234 and out the outlet 212.

As shown in FIG. 2D, however, when the valve head 204 is still in a lifted position relative to the valve ball 206 and the inlet pressure drops below the outlet pressure, the pressure differential between the outlet 212 will force the valve ball 206 into contact with the valve seal 208, thereby sealing the aperture 220 of the valve seal 208. This movement of the valve ball 206 is further enhanced by the Bernoulli principle. The Bernoulli effect will initially cause the valve ball 206 to quickly move to the seal aperture 220 in the event of a reverse flow through the valve 200. In this fourth valve state, the engagement of the valve ball 206 with the valve seal prevents back flow through the outlet 212 and into the inlet 210 when the outlet pressure exceeds the inlet pressure. As the outlet pressure increases, the strength of the seal between the valve ball 206 and the valve seal 208 increases proportionately. As such, the valve ball 206 in combination with the valve seal 208 thus provide a bi- directional self-energizing seal for the bi-directional self-energizing valve 200.

In order for the valve 100 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 1A-1 D to operate, the valve head 104 must be selectively and precisely actuated between a first position where the valve 100 is forced to a closed position and a second position where the valve 100 can open if the valve inlet pressure exceeds the valve outlet pressure. As shown in FIGS. 3A-3D, the basic valve configuration of the valve 100 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 1 A-1 D has been incorporated into a mechanically actuated valve 300. The valve is a bi-directional self-energizing valve and is shown in various states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The valve 300 is comprised of a valve body 302 within which is contained a valve head 304, valve flap 306 and valve seal 308. The valve body 302 includes a fluid inlet 310 and a fluid outlet 312. The valve head 304 resides within a cylinder wall 314 and is vertically movable within the space 316 defined by the cylinder wall 314. The valve seal 308 resides above the inlet 310 and includes a central aperture 320 that is arranged concentrically with the inlet 310 so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture 320. The valve seal 308 is retained on its outer perimeter 322 by a seal recess 324 formed within the valve body 302. The valve flap 306 is held one end 326 to the valve body 302 with a portion of the valve flap 306 positioned within a valve flap recess 328 within the valve body 302.

As shown in FIG. 3A, the valve head 304 comprises a vertically movable piston body 304’ that defines a circumferential groove 305 for receiving and retaining an O-ring 307 to seal the piston body 304’ to the cylinder wall 314 as the piston body 304’ translates between first and second positions as illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3D.

The valve head 304 further includes a cam head 309 positioned within a cam chamber 31 1. The cam head 309 is biased into contact with a rotatable cam 315 positioned above the cam head 309 with a biasing device 317, such as a coil spring, that extends between the underside 319 of the cam head and a floor 321 of the cam chamber. The biasing device 317 forces the valve head 304 toward the cam 315 and away from the valve flap 306.

In the closed position as illustrated in FIG. 3A, the lower end of the valve head

304 holds the valve flap 306 over the valve seal 308 to thereby create a seal between the valve seal 308 and the valve flap 306. This first valve state prevents a flow of fluid from the inlet 310 to the outlet 312. As the inlet pressure increases, as shown in FIG. 1 B, with the valve head 304 still in contact with the upper surface 330 of the valve flap 306, due to the pressure differential between the inlet 310 and the outlet 312 and the flexible and resilient nature of the valve seal 308 and valve flap 306, in this second valve state the valve seal 308 is upwardly forced into the valve flap 306, effectively increasing the strength of the seal between the valve seal 308 and the valve flap 306 in proportion to the pressure differential between the valve inlet 310 and the valve outlet 312.

As shown in FIG. 3C, a third valve state occurs when the valve head 304 is lifted relative to the valve flap 306. This occurs as the cam 315 is rotated so that the upper surface 323 of the cam head 309 engages at least partially with the second cam surface 315”. The second cam surface 315” has a shorter radius from a center of rotation of the cam 315 than the first cam surface 315’. When this occurs, the valve head 304 moves away from the valve flap 306. When the inlet pressure is greater than the outlet pressure, as the valve head 304 is lifted, the proximal end 332 of the valve flap 306 is upwardly forced by fluid pressure toward the valve head 304. This allows fluid flow (as represented by arrows) through the inlet 310, through the aperture 320 of the valve seal 308 into the inner valve chamber 334 defined by the valve body 302 and out the outlet 312.

As shown in FIG. 3D, however, when the valve head 304 is still in a lifted position relative to the valve flap 306, which may be when the cam 315 is rotated so that the upper surface 323 of the cam head 309 engages at least partially with the second cam surface 315”, and the inlet pressure drops below the outlet pressure, the pressure differential between the outlet 312 will force the valve flap 306 into contact with the valve seal 308, thereby sealing the aperture 320 of the valve seal 308. This movement of the valve flap 306 is further enhanced by the Bernoulli principle. The Bernoulli effect will initially cause the valve flap 306 to quickly move to the seal aperture 320 in the event of a reverse flow through the valve 300. In this fourth valve state, the engagement of the valve flap 306 with the valve seal prevents back flow through the outlet 312 and into the inlet 310 when the outlet pressure exceeds the inlet pressure. As the outlet pressure increases, the strength of the seal between the valve flap 306 and the valve seal 308 increases proportionately. As such, the valve flap 306 in combination with the valve seal 308 provides a bi- directional self-energizing seal for the bi-directional self-energizing valve 300.

Similarly, in order for the valve 200 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 2A-2D to operate, the valve head 204 must be selectively and precisely actuated between a first position where the valve 200 is forced to a closed position and a second position where the valve 200 can open if the valve inlet pressure exceeds the valve outlet pressure. As shown in FIGS. 4A-4D, the basic valve configuration of the valve 200 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 2A-2D has been incorporated into a mechanically actuated valve 400. The valve is a bi- directional self-energizing valve and is shown in various states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

The valve 400 is comprised of a valve body 402 within which is contained a valve head 404, valve ball 406 and valve seal 408. The valve body 402 includes a fluid inlet 410 and a fluid outlet 412. The valve head 404 resides within a cylinder wall 414 and is vertically movable within the space 416 defined by the cylinder wall 414. The valve seal 408 resides above the inlet 410 and includes a central aperture 420 that is arranged concentrically with the inlet 410 so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture 420. The valve seal 408 is retained on its outer perimeter 422 by a seal recess 424 formed within the valve body 402. The valve ball 406 is a bi-directional sealing member that performs a similar bi-directional sealing function as the valve flap 306 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 3A-3D. The valve ball 406 is positioned within an inner valve chamber 434 defined by the valve body 402 that is in fluid communication with both the inlet 410 and outlet 412 of the valve body 202.

As shown in FIG. 4A, the valve head 404 comprises a vertically movable piston body 404’ that defines a circumferential groove 405 for receiving and retaining an O-ring 407 to seal the piston body 404’ to the cylinder wall 414 as the piston body 404’ translates between first and second positions as illustrated in FIGS. 4A-4D. The valve head 404 further includes a cam head 409 positioned within a cam chamber 41 1. The cam head 409 is biased into contact with a rotatable cam 415 positioned above the cam head 409 with a biasing device 417, such as a coil spring, that extends between the underside 419 of the cam head and a floor 421 of the cam chamber. The biasing device 417 forces the valve head 404 toward the cam 415 and away from the valve ball 406.

In the closed position as illustrated in FIG. 4A, the lower end of the valve head 404 holds the valve ball 406 over the valve seal 408 to thereby create a seal between the valve seal 408 and the valve ball 406. This first valve state prevents a flow of fluid from the inlet 410 to the outlet 412. As the inlet pressure increases, as shown in FIG. 4B, with the valve head 404 still in contact with the upper surface 430 of the valve flap 406, due to the pressure differential between the inlet 410 and the outlet 412 and the flexible and resilient nature of the valve seal 408 and valve ball 406, in this second valve state the valve seal 408 is upwardly forced into the valve ball 406, effectively increasing the strength of the seal between the valve seal 408 and the valve ball 406 in proportion to the pressure differential between the valve inlet 410 and the valve outlet 412.

As shown in FIG. 4C, a third valve state occurs when the valve head 404 is lifted relative to the valve seal 408. This occurs as the cam 415 is rotated so that the upper surface 423 of the cam head 409 engages at least partially with the second cam surface 415”. The second cam surface 415” has a shorter radius from a center of rotation of the cam 415 than the first cam surface 415’. When this occurs, the valve head 404 moves away from the valve flap 406. When the inlet pressure is greater than the outlet pressure, as the valve head 404 is lifted, the valve ball 406 is upwardly forced by fluid pressure toward the valve head 404. This allows fluid flow (as represented by arrows) through the inlet 410, through the aperture 420 of the valve seal 408 into the inner valve chamber 434 defined by the valve body 402 and out the outlet 412.

As shown in FIG. 4D, however, when the valve head 404 is still in a lifted position relative to the valve seal 408 such that valve ball 406 is not forced into engagement with the valve seal 408, which may be when the cam 415 is rotated so that the upper surface 423 of the cam head 409 engages at least partially with the second cam surface 415”, and the inlet pressure drops below the outlet pressure, the pressure differential between the outlet 412 will force the valve ball 406 into contact with the valve seal 408, thereby sealing the aperture 420 of the valve seal 408. This movement of the valve ball 406 is further enhanced by the Bernoulli principle. The Bernoulli effect will initially cause the valve ball 406 to quickly move to the seal aperture 420 in the event of a reverse flow through the valve 400. In this fourth valve state, the engagement of the valve ball 406 with the valve seal prevents back flow through the outlet 412 and into the inlet 410 when the outlet pressure exceeds the inlet pressure. As the outlet pressure increases, the strength of the seal between the valve ball 406 and the valve seal 408 increases proportionately. As such, the valve ball 406 in combination with the valve seal 408 provides a bi- directional self-energizing seal for the bi-directional self-energizing valve 400.

As shown in FIGS. 5A-5C, a basic valve configuration of the valve 100 shown and described with reference to FIGS. 1A-1 D has been incorporated into a mechanically actuated valve 500. The valve 500 is a bi-directional self-energizing valve and is shown in various states of operation in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The valve 500 is comprised of a valve body 502 within which is contained a two-piece valve head 504’ and 504”, valve flap 506 and valve seal 508. The valve body 502 includes a fluid inlet 510 and a fluid outlet 512. The two- piece valve head 504’ and 504” resides within a cylinder wall 514 and is vertically movable within the space 516 defined by the cylinder wall 514. The valve seal 508 resides above the inlet 510 and includes a central aperture 520 that is arranged concentrically with the inlet 510 so that fluid flowing through the inlet can flow through the central aperture 520. The valve seal 508 is retained on its outer perimeter 522 by a seal recess 524 formed within the valve body 502. The valve flap 506 is held one side 526 to the valve body 502 with a portion of the valve flap 506 positioned within a valve flap recess 528 within the valve body 502.

Interposed between the two sections of the two-piece valve head 504’ and 504” is a head seal 507. The valve body 502 defines a circumferential groove 505 for receiving and retaining an outer perimeter of the head seal 507 to seal cam chamber 51 1 and cam 515 from the valve chamber 534. As the cam 515 rotates between a closed position as shown in FIG. 5A to an open position as shown in FIG. 5B, the two sections 504’ and 504” are moved in unison relative to the valve body 502. Because the valve head seal 507 is interposed between the two sections 504’ and 504” of the valve head, the valve head seal 507 is upwardly flexed relative to the valve body 502 as the lower valve head section 504” is lifted away from the valve flap 506 by spring 517. In this position, a flow of fluid (represented by arrows) can flow through the inlet 510 past the valve flap 506 and out the outlet 512.

As shown in FIG. 5C, if the outlet pressure exceeds the inlet pressure, the valve flap 506 will return to a closed position due to the pressure applied by the outlet to the top surface of the valve flap 506 to cause the valve flap 506 to seal against the valve seal 522. That is, the valve flap 506 will return to its closed position even though the cam 515 and thus the valve head 504’ and 504” is in an open position.

In order to maintain a sterile valve chamber during operation of a valve in accordance with the present invention, as shown in FIG. 6A, a valve 600 comprises one or more additional seals on the various moving components. The valve 600 is comprised of a valve body 602 having an inlet port 604 and an outlet port 606. A valve head 608 is driven toward a valve ball 610 by the cam 612 as the cam rotates. When the valve ball 610 is forced into contact with the valve seal 614, flow from the inlet port 604 through the valve 600 is prevented. It should be noted that the valve 600 is a generally cylindrical structure, with the various seals shown in cross-section.

Thus, the seal 614 is a circular disc-shaped structure defining a central cylindrical aperture 616. Likewise, a slide O-ring seal 618 extends around the lower end 608’ of the valve head 608 and maintains a seal around the valve head 608 as the valve head 608 vertically reciprocates, first by being driven toward the valve seal 614 when the cam 612 is in the position as shown and second when it is retracted toward the cam 612 by the coil spring 620 when the cam 612 is rotated at 180 degrees. The slide O-ring seal 618 is maintained in position relative to the valve body 602 by being positioned between a slide seal retainer 622 that is positioned directly above the slide O-ring seal 618 and the valve seal retainer 624 that is positioned directly below the slide O-ring seal 618. The valve seal retainer defines a cylindrical valve chamber 626 between the valve seal 614 and the lower end 608’ of the valve head 608. The ball valve 610 is sized to fit within the valve chamber 626 and to be freely vertically movable within the valve chamber 626 when the valve head 608 is in the lifted valve open position. The valve seal 614 resides between a lower wall surface 628 of the valve seal retainer and an upper wall surface 630 defined by the valve body 602. A lower O-ring seal 632 is positioned below the valve seal 614 and provides an additional seal between the bottom surface of the valve seal 614 and the valve body 602 so that fluid in the valve chamber 626 cannot flow around the valve seal 614 and into the inlet 604 when the valve chamber pressure exceeds the inlet pressure. The lower O-ring seal also gives increased compliance to the valve seal 614 when the valve head 608 is pushed down by the cam 612. For example, if the valve seal is 0.030 thick silicon rubber and is compressed 20%, only 0.006 inch of the valve seal is compress, which is a rather tight tolerance. With the O-ring in place, the tolerance is increase. For example, if the valve seal is 0.030 inch thick and the O-ring is 0.07 inch thick, the total thickness of the two seals combined is 0.100 inch. A 20% compression of 0.100 inch seal material is 0.02 inch, which is a much less difficult to achieve in such a valve system. In addition, rotary seals may be placed on the cam shaft to prevent contamination of the valve during operation. Such additional seals can be employed to create a sterile environment for both the inlet and outlet sides of the valve.

Moreover, as shown in FIG. 6B, when the inlet pressure is higher than the outlet pressure and the valve 600 is mechanically closed by the cam 612. The inlet pressure pushes the valve seal 614 up into the valve ball 610, thus energizing that seal. The valve seal 614 is also being pushed up into the wall 628. Thus, even though there is a gap between the wall 630 and the valve seal 614, the valve seal 614 is still sealing to the ball valve 610. Conversely, as shown in FIG. 6C, when the outlet pressure is higher than the inlet pressure and the valve 600 is mechanically closed. The outlet pressure pushes the ball valve 610 down into the valve seal 614 thus energizing the seal between the valve ball 610 and the valve seal 614. Also, the outlet pressure pushes the valve seal 614 into the lower wall 630 and thus the seal between the valve seal 614 and the wall 630 is energized. The result is that the gap between the wall 628 and wall 630 does not need to be a precise tolerance. This greatly reduces manufacturing costs. It also allows the valve seal 614 to be undeformed, as compared to when the valve seal is compressed between the two walls 628 and 630, and thus highly predictable.

The valve 600 can thus be constructed by inserting the valve seal 614 into the valve body. The valve seal retainer 624, which may comprise a cylindrical body having a central bore and a recessed peripheral groove and an outlet port in fluid communication between the central bore and the peripheral groove, is pressed into the valve body 602 with a press fit sufficient to retain the valve seal retainer 624 in place as well as make a seal between the valve body 602 and the valve seal retainer 624. The peripheral groove around the outside of the valve seal retainer 624 allows it to be installed at any rotation and still be in fluid communication with the outlet 606 of the valve body 602.

The valve seal retainer 624 is positioned 0.001 in to 0.01 inches above the valve seal 614. The valve ball 610 is dropped into place and the sliding seal 618 is inserted. The slide seal retainer 622 is then pressed into place. It is press fit to hold it in place. The valve head 608 is then slid into the slide seal retainer 622 and the sliding seal 618. The cam 612 is then slid into place.

As such, the valve seal 614 can be constructed of a more rigid material or constructed as a composite with two soft outer layers and a rigid core. Such a valve seal construction can withstand higher pressure.

The valves of the present invention are sufficiently inexpensive to

manufacture and sufficiently low in energy consumption to operate that such valves can be incorporated into a system that is capable of operating on low power batteries.

The various components of the valves of the present invention may be comprised of plastic, metal or other materials known in the art. The ball valves may be comprised of acetyl ball valves and the piston may be comprised of Delrin rod.

As previously discussed with reference to FIG. 7, prior art hydraulic systems require a High Pressure Accumulator to set at a pressure PH that is the highest pressure the system is ever going to need. In addition, prior art hydraulic systems burn off significant energy in the form of heat, often requiring large radiators to handle the heat loss. As a result, prior art hydraulic systems are highly inefficient. The maximum power a system needs must be stored in the High Pressure

Accumulator and that energy is burned off as heat to get the pressure PH down to the desired pressure PA. In addition, the energy stored in the spring is burned off as heat again when the pressure PA is lowered to pressure PL. To make matter worse, if the pump is hooked to an engine or motor that cannot change flow rates, then the pump has to operate at maximum flow rate that might be needed and the excess flow is burned off by passing the extra fluid through the bypass valve. The end result is that in traditional hydraulics the desired mechanical power output is significantly less than the power requirements of the system, with the excess power expelled as heat. Further, traditional hydraulics have an additional loss in that the valves may be high performance servo valves that can burn up to 120W of energy just resting.

While FIG. 7 represents a conventional analog hydraulic system, FIG. 8 illustrates a simple digital hydraulic system, generally indicated at 800, utilizing conventional hydraulic technology. As shown in FIG. 8, there are four actuators 802- 805 pushing on the spring 806. If the pistons of the actuators are all the same size then there is four force settings this system can be turned to. Note each actuator has two valves, such as valves 808 and 810 for actuator 805. Unlike the servo valves of a traditional analog system, the valves 808 and 810 for the digital system are either on or off. If an actuator 802, 803, 804 or 805 is hooked to pressure PH then the force is the area of the piston, such as piston 812 x PH. If two actuator are hooked to PH then the force is 2 x area x PH. If three actuators are hooked to PH then the force is 3 x area x PH. And if all four actuators 802-805 are connected to pressure PH then the force is 4 x area x PH. A four actuator system as shown is a simple example, but its force resolution is necessarily limited to only four multiples of the pressure PH and not necessarily practical for all applications. For example, under high pressure, the digital hydraulic system 800 could jerk violently and be difficult to properly control. Also, the desired load would still require significant throttling of fluid to match needed force.

However, the digital hydraulic system of FIG. 8 illustrates how power is conserved. If the spring force from spring 806 is close to one of the four settings of 1 , 2, 3 or 4 actuators then the fluid entering the actuator chamber is at PH. In addition when the spring 806 is moving the piston to the left, with a force that is slightly more than one actuator then one actuator is hooked to the PH and the rest are hooked to PL. In this case the energy in the spring is regenerated by sending flow back to PH. However, such a system may be coarse for practical application. Even so, it may be difficult to implement the system of FIG. 8 due to the number of valves. Conventional valves are expensive and take energy to operate and the system of FIG. 8 has multiplied the number of valves for a single piston 812 by a factor of 4. Because the system requires 4 x the valve energy and four times the valve cost, the digital hydraulic system 800 would require significantly more valves to become practical. This is a primary reason why digital hydraulic systems have not become a viable technology. By the time the resolution is small enough, valve cost has skyrocketed and valve energy is more than the systems energy.

Utilizing valves according to the principles of the present invention in a digital hydraulic system solves the above referenced problems. The valves are configured so that they do not pass hydraulic fluid when closed as is common with servo valves. The valves of the present invention are low energy to open and low energy to close. The valves are inexpensive to make and orders of magnitude less expensive than servo valves, making a digital hydraulic system viable.

FIGS. 9A-9D illustrate a valve, generally indicated at 900 in accordance to the principles of the present invention, in various states. In the first state as shown in FIG. 9A, the valve 900 is closed and Inlet 902 and Outlet 904 Pressures are relatively the same. The Cam 906 has its large radius section 908 against the Valve Head 910 and is holding the valve head 910 down against the Valve Ball 912, which is pushing against the Valve Seal 914. The Valve seal 914 is a disc with a hole 916 through the middle.

In the second state shown in FIG. 9B, The Cam 906 still has the Valve Head

910 held down against the Valve Ball 912. The Inlet pressure is higher than the Outlet Pressure. In this configuration the Valve Seal 914 is lifted into the Valve Ball 912 and is increasing the seal force between the Valve Seal 914 and Valve Ball 912. Thus, the Valve Seal 914 is self energizing.

In the third state shown in FIG. 9C, the inlet pressure is still higher than the outlet pressure, same as in the second state, but now the valve 900 is open. The Cam 906 rotates to the position as shown with its flat side 909 facing the Valve Head 910. The Valve Head 910 lifts due to the spring 918. It also lifts because the inlet pressure is pushing up on the Valve Head 910. Thus the energy to open the valve 900 is small. It is not trying to crack a hydraulic seal as is the case with conventional hydraulic valves. The valve 900 is already trying to open. The arrows show the fluid flowing.

In the fourth state shown in FIG. 9D, the fluid is flowing, but the valve 900 must be shut. If the valve 900 is shut quickly then Bernoulli's effect will help shut the valve 900. As the ball 912 gets close to the valve seal 914, fluid velocity increases. For a brief moment the low pressure caused by Bernoulli effect pulls the ball 912 towards the Valve Seal 914. By rotating the Cam 906 into the shut position at this time, the Bernoulli effect is activated. By utilizing the Bernoulli effect, low energy is required to shut the valve 900.

As shown in FIG. 10, a digital hydraulic system 1000 according to the principles of the present invention uses a plurality of self-actuating valves 1002, 1004 according to the present invention with corresponding actuators 1006. Utilizing, for example, 100 actuators that are all the same size, 100 different pressure settings are provided. If the total output of the actuator 1006 is 500 lbs. then the system 1000 utilizing 100 actuators can be adjusted in 5 lb. increments by selectively activating or deactivating any number of actuators between 1 and 100. If the system utilizes 33 sets of 3 sizes of actuators, totaling 99 actuators, then the system can be binary coded (100c2 L 3 = 800 settings). If there is a 500 lb. max output, the system can operate in 0.625 lb. increments.

Likewise, if the system had eight actuators of different sizes then the number of combinations would be 2 L 8 = 256 settings. Although there would be 256 settings, the size of anyone of the eight actuators would be significant to the whole system.

For example disconnecting actuator 2 in FIG. 1 1 would cause a major hydraulic hammer in the system 1 100. A smoothly operational digital hydraulic system according to the present invention is provided by ensuring that each individual cylinder is significantly small compared to the whole system such that an individual cylinder coming up to pressure will not create a major change in the system. The hydraulic system 1 100 of FIG. 11 comprises a large actuator 1 102 (Actuator 1 ) and a small actuator 1 104 (Actuator 2) connected in parallel to a piston 1 106. Bringing the small actuator 1 104 up to pressure or down in pressure will not affect the overall system in a significant way. In fact this configuration is a likely method for systems where the overall bias load is known such as an automobile suspension. Note that in this case the large actuator 1 102 (Actuator 1 ) is hooked directly to the high pressure PH and does not include a valve. Actuator 1 1 102 is the bias force.

Actuator 2 1 104 allows for small adjustment by valving it to high pressure PH or low pressure PL.

FIGS. 12A-12D illustrate an alternative version of a valve 1200 for digital hydraulics. As compared to the valve 900 shown in FIGS. 9A-9D, the valve 1200 does not include a ball. Rather, the Valve Head 1202 is able to come into contact the Valve Seal 1204 in the down position shown in FIGS. 12A and 12B. The valve 1200 does not provide a seal in both directions of travel of the head, only in the down position. Such a unidirectional sealing can be useful while still maintaining its easy opening and easy closing characteristics. In State 1 as shown in FIG. 12A, the Valve 1200 is closed and Inlet and Outlet Pressures are relatively the same. The Cam 1206 has its large radius section against the upper end 1208 of the Valve Head 1202 which is pushing against the Valve Seal 1204. The Valve Seal 1204 comprises a disc with an aperture extending through the middle of the disc. The valve seal 1204 is partially bound on its sides by the valve casing 1210, which defines a cylindrical valve seal recess 1212 to retain the Valve Seal 1204 therein.

As shown in FIG. 12B, while the Cam 1206 still has the Valve Head 1202 held down against the Valve Seal 1204. The Inlet pressure is higher than the Outlet Pressure. In this position the Valve Seal 1204, which is formed from a flexible, resilient material, is caused to lift into contact with the Valve Head 1202 and thus increases the seal force between the Valve Seal 1204 and Valve Head 1202. Thus the valve seal 1204 is self-energizing.

As shown in FIG. 12C, while the inlet pressure is still greater than the outlet pressure (as in State 2 of FIG. 12B) the valve head 1202 is retracting from the valve seal 1204 to open the valve 1200. The Cam 1206 rotates to the position shown in FIG. 12C where its flat side surface 1207 is in contact with the upper end 1208 of the valve head 1202. As a result, the Valve Head 1202 lifts due to the upward force applied by the spring 1214. It also lifts because the inlet pressure of the fluid pushes up on the bottom end of the Valve Head 1202. Thus the energy to open the valve is relatively small and required to“crack” a hydraulic seal of a conventional hydraulic valve. That is, when the valve 1200 is beginning to open, the valve 1200 is already trying to open. The arrows show the fluid flowing through the valve 1200.

As shown in FIG. 12D, in State 4, the fluid is flowing through the valve 1200, but the valve 1200 is in the process of being shut. If the valve 1200 is shut relatively quickly then the Bernoulli's effect will assist in shutting the valve 1200. As the Valve Head 1202 gets close to the valve seal 1204, fluid velocity increases. For that brief moment of increased fluid velocity between the valve head 1292 and the valve seal 1204, the resulting low pressure caused by the Bernoulli effect pulls the Valve Head 1202 towards the Valve Seal 1204. The valve 1200 is configured to rotate the cam

1206 into to the closed position at the same time the Bernoulli effect is occurring. By using the Bernoulli effect, the valve requires relatively low energy to shut the valve. Conversely, in traditional servo valves the fighting effects of pressure differential and Bernoulli's effect often shows up as a Hysteresis plot.

Another embodiments of a digital hydraulic system, generally indicates at

1300, according to the present invention is shown and described with reference to FIG. 13. FIG. 13 illustrates a supply valve 1302 and a dump valve 1304 for a single actuator 1306. In digital hydraulics, the system does not require the valves to seal in both directions. As shown in FIG. 13, if the Actuator Pressure (PA) is higher than the supply pressure (PH) then the system desirably allows fluid to flow from the actuator 1306, through the valve 1302 and to the High Pressure Supply.

A similar situation occurs on the reservoir dump valve 1304. If the actuator pressure PA drops below the reservoir pressure PR then the system desirably allows fluid to flow from the reservoir 1308 to the actuator 1306. Thus, the valve

configuration is actuated by self-energizing seals 1310 and 1312 against forward flow, but a passive check valve allows flow in the reverse direction.

Prior art servo-valves are known for being fast reacting. At first glance, the digital hydraulics system 1300 of the present invention may look slower in comparison. While a spool in a servo-valve only moves a few 0.001 inches to get a significant change in its flow, the digital valve of the present invention may need to move 0.05 inches to be fully open or fully closed, depending on the size of the valve. The present invention, however, provides a change in the control system that favors digital hydraulics.

Servo-valves are flow-control valves. The present invention, however, provides a valving system to generate a force out of the actuator. It is known that Force out is equal to the piston area times actuator pressure. In most servo-control hydraulics, a flow valve (servo-valve) is being used to create a pressure inside the actuator. The pressure inside an actuator is approximated by: where P a = Actuator Pressure, KH = Modulus of Elasticity, Flowl is flow from servo-valve, v a = piston velocity, Aa = area of piston, and t=time.

As shown in FIG. 14, the way such a conventional hydraulic system is controlled is through a feedback loop on a load cell, which is measuring the force out. The control system has a desired force that it compares to the load cell actual force and then uses a proportional integral derivative (PID) control loop to move the valve spool. The result is there is integration in the loop. The flow out of the servo- valve is filling the actuator. The moving piston is either expanding or decreasing the volume of the actuator, which can be approximated as a flow. The integral summation of these two flows times a modulus of elasticity equals the actuator pressure. Thus, the servo-valve is constantly changing position to accommodate the movement of the actuator so as to give the desired output force.

As shown in FIG. 15, with a digital hydraulics system 1500 according to the present invention, the desired force immediately chooses how many actuators 1502 Ni to Nt to activate. The system 1500 can thus operate in an open loop. A load cell may be used for a double check, but the desired force signal equates directly to the number of actuators 1502 at supply pressure. The movement of the piston does not affect this choice. The compliance of the system 1500 does not affect this choice. This open loop system is a faster control system than conventional hydraulic control systems, which can compensate for the difference in mechanical movements in the valves.

Figures 16-19 further illustrate various hydraulic systems and arrays of hydraulic systems in accordance with the principles of the present invention. As shown in FIGS. 16 and 17, a single actuator system for a digital hydraulic system 1600 is comprised of a pair of valves 1602 and 1604 in accordance with the principles of the present invention that are coupled to an actuator 1606.

The valve 1602 has an inlet 1608 coupled to a pressure side of the system 1600 and an outlet 1610 coupled to the actuator 1606. The valve 1602 includes a valve head 1612 that is driven by a cam 1614 as has been previously described herein. A drive shaft 1616 may be used to drive the cam 1614.

The valve 1604 has an inlet 1618 coupled to a pressure side of the system 1600 and an outlet 1620 coupled to the actuator 1606. The valve 1604 includes a valve head 1622 that is driven by a cam 1624 as has been previously described herein. The drive shaft 1616 may also be used to simultaneously drive the cam 1624 so that the respective opening of valve 1604 and closing of the valve 1602 as shown in FIG. 16 are synchronized.

To drive the actuator 1606, the piston 1630 is driven through the piston cylinder 1632 when the pressure valve 1602 is opened and the reservoir valve is closed. The pressure is great enough to overcome the spring force of the spring 1636, thus compressing the spring as the actuator arm 1634 is extended out of the cylinder 1632.

To retract the actuator arm 1634, the valve 1602 is closed and the valve 1604 is opened as illustrated. This allows the spring 1636 to expand and retract the actuator arm 1634 back into the cylinder as fluid in the cylinder 1632 above the piston 1630 is allowed to flow through the valve 1604 to the low-pressure reservoir R. By selectively and controllably cycling the valves 1602 and 1604, the actuator arm 1634 can be selectively extended and retracted.

FIG. 18 illustrates a plurality of the single actuator systems 1600 coupled together in parallel to form a digital hydraulic system 1800 in accordance with the principles of the present invention. While three such actuator systems 1600 are shown for illustration purposes, it is contemplated that any number of such actuator systems 1600 would be coupled together to form a digital hydraulic system according to the principles of the present invention. Each of the single actuator systems 1600 is independently controlled. That is, the digital hydraulic system 1800 can activate one or more of the actuator systems 1600 to control the load applied to the body 1802 to which each of the actuator systems 1600 are connected in parallel. Thus, to apply a force proportionate to 1 times the supply pressure, one of the single actuator systems 1600 is activated. To apply a force proportionate to 2 times the supply pressure, two of the single actuator systems 1600 are activated. To apply a force proportionate to 3 times the supply pressure, three of the single actuator systems 1600 are activated, and so on depending on the number of single actuator systems 1600 employed in the digital hydraulic system.

For example, as shown in FIG. 19, a digital hydraulic system 1900, configured similarly to the digital hydraulic system 1800 shown in FIG. 18, is illustrated. Each of the single actuator systems 1902, 1904 and 1906 is driven by a motor 1908. The motor 1908 drives the respective cams 1910-1915 via a plurality of linked drive shafts 1920-1922. Electronically controlled gear or clutch mechanisms 1930 and 1940 are interposed between adjacent actuator systems 1902 and 1904, 1904 and 1906. The motor 1908 and the clutch mechanisms 1930 and 1940 are controlled by the digital control system 1950. The digital control system 1950 includes a processor to control activation of the motor to cause the actuators to move the body 1960 to which they are attached, or to resist movement of the body 1960 toward the actuators, as would be the case when an external force is applied to the body 1960. When the motor 1908 is activated, the drive shaft is rotated causing rotation of the first set of cams 1910 and 191 1 of the actuator system 1902. If the digital control system determines that additional force is required on the body 1960, the clutch mechanism 1930 is engaged to cause the drive shafts of the second actuator system 1904 to activate. Likewise, if the digital control system determines that still additional force is required on the body 1960, the clutch mechanism 1940 is engaged to cause the drive shafts of the third actuator system 1906 to activate. Similarly, as the force requirements are reduced, the digital control system 1950 can deactivate one or more of the actuator systems accordingly.

The hydraulic systems and valves of the present invention can be

inexpensively manufactured, while achieving highly accurate and reliable operation.

It is contemplated, and will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the foregoing specification, drawings, and examples that modifications and/or changes may be made in the embodiments of the invention. It is expressly intended that the foregoing are only illustrative of various embodiments and modes of operation, not limiting thereto, and that the true spirit and scope of the present invention be determined by reference to the appended claims.

While the present invention has been described with reference to certain illustrative embodiments to illustrate what is believed to be the best mode of the invention, it is contemplated that upon review of the present invention, those of skill in the art will appreciate that various modifications and combinations may be made to the present embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as recited in the claims. The claims provided herein are intended to cover such modifications and combinations and all equivalents thereof. Reference herein to specific details of the illustrated embodiments is by way of example and not by way of limitation.

Thus, aspects and applications of the invention presented here are described in the drawings and in the foregoing detailed description of the invention. Those of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the description of the present invention is illustrative only and not in any way limiting. Other embodiments of the invention will readily suggest themselves to such skilled persons including, without limitation, combinations of elements of the various embodiments. Various representative implementations of the present invention may be applied to any valve.

Unless specifically noted, it is intended that the words and phrases in the specification and the claims be given their plain, ordinary, and accustomed meaning to those of ordinary skill in the applicable arts. It is noted that the inventor can be his own lexicographer. The inventor expressly elects, as his own lexicographer, to use the plain and ordinary meaning of terms in the specification and claims unless they clearly state otherwise in which case, the inventor will set forth the“special” definition of that term and explain how it differs from the plain and ordinary meaning. Absent such statements of the application of a“special” definition, it is the inventor’s intent and desire that the simple, plain and ordinary meaning to the terms be applied to the interpretation of the specification and claims.

The inventor is also aware of the normal precepts of English grammar. Thus, if a noun, term, or phrase is intended to be further characterized, specified, or narrowed in some way, then such noun, term, or phrase will expressly include additional adjectives, descriptive terms, or other modifiers in accordance with the normal precepts of English grammar. Absent the use of such adjectives, descriptive terms, or modifiers, it is the intent that such nouns, terms, or phrases be given their plain, and ordinary English meaning to those skilled in the applicable arts as set forth above.

Further, the inventor is fully informed of the standards and application of the special provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 1 12(f). Thus, the use of the words“function,” “means” or“step” in the Detailed Description of the Invention or claims is not intended to somehow indicate a desire to invoke the special provisions of 35 U.S.C.

§ 1 12(f) to define the invention. To the contrary, if the provisions of 35 U.S.C. §

1 12(f) are sought to be invoked to define the inventions, the claims will specifically and expressly state the exact phrases“means for” or“step for” and the specific function (e.g.,“means for heating”), without also reciting in such phrases any structure, material or act in support of the function. Thus, even when the claims recite a“means for . . or“step for . . if the claims also recite any structure, material or acts in support of that means or step, or that perform the recited function, then it is the clear intention of the inventor not to invoke the provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 1 12(f). Moreover, even if the provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 1 12(f) are invoked to define the claimed inventions, it is intended that the inventions not be limited only to the specific structure, material or acts that are described in the illustrated embodiments, but in addition, include any and all structures, materials or acts that perform the claimed function as described in alternative embodiments or forms of the invention, or that are well known present or later-developed, equivalent structures, material or acts for performing the claimed function.




 
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