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Title:
ELECTRONICALLY CONTROLLED PRESSURISED DAMPER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/097699
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a device in a vehicle damper which comprises a damping medium-filled damper body (2), in which an element (5, 5') forming a seal against the damper body divides the damper body into two chambers (2a, 2b). A microprocessor control unit (SU) is coupled to one or more valve and connecting arrangements (4a, 4b, 4c), comprising at least one valve and a number of flow ducts. Respective valves and flow ducts of the valve and connecting arrangement (4a, 4b, 4c) are coupled both to respective damper chambers (2a, 2b) and a pressurizing element (3) common to both of the chambers, so that even in the chamber in which a low pressure prevails there is a positive pressure acting at all times. The valve and connecting arrangements (4a, 4b) comprise a continuously electrically controlled main valve (CES), a non-return valve (SV) and one or more bleed valves (BV, 10a, 10b), the flow through the bleed valve(s) (BV, 10a, 10b) being adjustable separately from the electrically controlled main valve (CES). In the case of small strokes or slow movements the damping medium flows via the bleed valve (BV, 10a, 10b) through one or more separate leakage flow ducts. By locating the leakage flow duct(s) parallel to the valve and connecting arrangement (4a, 4b, 4c) the low-speed damping can be adjusted separately from the high-speed damping. The electrically adjustable main valve (CES) can therefore be adjusted to the correct damping characteristic whilst the damper is set up for small strokes and slow movements.

Inventors:
ATSUSHI, Ishii (Skepptunagränd 6, Upplands Väsby, S-194 55, SE)
Application Number:
SE2007/000168
Publication Date:
August 30, 2007
Filing Date:
February 23, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ÖHLINS RACING AB (Box 722, Upplands Väsby, S-194 27, SE)
ATSUSHI, Ishii (Skepptunagränd 6, Upplands Väsby, S-194 55, SE)
International Classes:
F16F9/46; B60G17/016
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
IPENDO AB (Husargatan 3, Malmö, S-211 28, SE)
Download PDF:
Claims:

PATENT CLAIMS

1. A device in a vehicle damper, which comprises a damping medium-filled damper body (2), in which an element (5, 5') forming a seal against the damper body divides the damper body into two chambers (2a, 2b), in which an alternating low and high pressure prevails, a microprocessor control unit (SU) being coupled to one or more valve and connecting arrangements (4a, 4b, 4c), comprising at least one valve and a number of flow ducts, in which respective valves and flow ducts of the valve and connecting arrangement (4a, 4b, 4c) are coupled both to respective damper chambers (2a, 2b) and a pressurizing element (3) common to both of the chambers, so that even in the chamber (2a/2b) in which a low pressure prevails there is a positive pressure acting at all times, characterized in that that the valve and connecting arrangements (4a, 4b) comprise a continuously electrically controlled main valve (CES), a non-return valve (SV) and one or more bleed valves (BV, 10a, 10b), the non-return valve (SV) being designed so that the pressurizing element (3) is always coupled to the low-pressure side of the damper, and the flow through the bleed valve(s) (BV, 10a, 10b) being adjustable separately from the electrically controlled main valve (CES).

2. The device as claimed in claim 1, characterized in that the adjustment of the bleed valve(s) (BV, 10a, 10b) is achieved by exchanging flow-limiting parts, such as shims, for example.

3. The device as claimed in claim 1, characterized in that the adjustment of the bleed valve(s) (BV, 10a, 10b) is achieved via a separate externally actuatable body, the position of which determines the flow.

4. The device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the valve and connecting arrangements (4a, 4b/4c) are arranged adjacent to one another in a common housing (7, 15), which also comprises a connection to the pressurizing device (3).

5. The device as claimed in claim 4, characterized in that the bleed valve(s) (BV, 10a, 10b) is/are also located in the common housing (7, 15) parallel with the electrically controlled main valve (CES).

6. The device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a bleed valve (BV, 10a, 10b) is located directly in the element/piston/arm (5, 5', 5"), which separates the part (2) forming an external seal into two chambers (2a, 2b).

7. The device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the damper body (2) takes the form of a cylinder which is divided into a compression chamber (2a) and a return chamber (2b) by a piston (5') fastened to a piston rod (6', 6")

8. The device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that that the damper body (2) is arranged inside a front fork.

9. The device as claimed in claim 1, 2 or 3, characterized in that the damper takes the form of a vane damper in which the part (2) forming an external seal is an outer housing (2") divided by an arm (5") rotatable about its one end.

Description:

ELECTRONICALLY CONTROLLED PRESSURISED DAMPER.

Technical field

The present invention relates to a device in a vehicle damper which comprises a damping medium-filled damper body, in which an element forming a seal against the damper body moves with a reciprocating stroke caused by the relative movement between two parts of the vehicle. The element forming a seal against the damper body divides the damper body into two chambers and has a low- pressure side and a high-pressure side owing to the pressure differences in the damping medium under said movement that is induced. One or more valve and connecting arrangements couple the respective damper chambers to a pressurizing element common to both of the chambers, so that even in the chamber in which a low pressure prevails there is a positive pressure acting at all times, so that the damping force characteristic in both stroke directions can be adjusted separately and independently of one another. A continuous electrical signal based on events registered by sensors and adjusted by a microprocessor control unit controls a first part of the damping force characteristic of the damper by regulating the flow through a first damping duct in the valve and connecting arrangement(s). A second part of the damping force characteristic of the damper is controlled by a further valve separated from the valve and connecting arrangement and located in a second damping duct.

Background of the invention

Electrically controlled valves are disclosed, for example, by the applicant's own patent SE 443622 and SE 466514 or by GB 2378231. The flow through these valves is determined by an electrically controlled pressure regulator, which forms the main restrictor in the damper. The pressure regulation is brought about by an equilibrium of forces between the forces caused by the pressure in the damper chamber and, among other things, the force of a pilot valve, which is controlled by a solenoid, electrically coupled to an adjusting device. In SE 443622 the pilot valve is continuously adjusted by a control signal, whilst the adjustment in SE 446514 and GB 2378231 is performed manually. The signal delivered by the control unit can be pre-programmed to adjust the damper so that the settings can be varied, for example, according to the driver's style of driving, the vehicle performance, the

state of the road or the like. In SE 443622 and SE 446514 the flow is adjusted directly via the damping piston, which is divided by the damping cylinder into a compression chamber and a return chamber respectively.

GB 2378231 describes a damper which has a valve for adjusting the damping forces on a compression stroke and a valve for adjusting the damping forces on a return stroke. The compression and return valves are coupled via a common chamber, so that on a return stroke the damping medium can flow between the return chamber and the compression chamber. On a compression stroke, on the other hand, the damping medium flows between the compression chamber and a medium-receiving reservoir. Two different types of valves have been used for compression and return and only the high-speed damping is adjustable from the damper.

Other prior art includes US 5,586,627, in which an electrically controlled damper with pressure reservoir is demonstrated. In Fig. 18 in the aforementioned patent, a damper is described which is pressurized on the high-pressure side of the piston and in which the pressurized damping medium is led via a valve device to the low- pressure side of the piston. Both the compression damping and the return damping are therefore adjusted by one and the same valve device. Other figures also show a damper having a separate compression valve and a separate return valve, in which the pressure reservoir is intended to pressurize the oil with which the damper is filled and to accommodate changes in the volume of oil due to temperature differences or the piston rod displacement.

The main problem that has to be overcome with the dampers described above is how, in a simple way, to combine the functions of a positive pressure build-up, in which the damping medium flow in both stroke directions can be adjusted quite separately and independently of one another, with a simple and inexpensive continuously adjustable electric control of the entire damping force characteristic or parts thereof.

The continuously adjustable dampers hitherto known, for example SE 443622, in which the characteristic is determined by a signal from a control unit, have a

certain delay before the valve has adjusted to the required position. The lag in the system is caused, for example, by the friction of the separate valve parts against one another and the consequence of this is that it takes between 8 and 12 msec for the valve to adjust to the new position. This lag is particularly manifest when only one valve determines the damping force characteristic of the damper, for example when this valve is seated in the damping piston.

Yet another problem can arise in rapid continuous adjustment of the damping force characteristic on the basis of output signals delivered by the vehicle sensors. When the sensors detect a change in the nature of the road surface, the driver's style of driving or the like, it is important that the electrically controlled valve can be prepared and adjusted to the optimum damping force characteristic on the next stroke. With previously known dampers this is complicated, since a damper without a positive pressure build-up on the low-pressure side of the piston lacks the capacity to adjust the return and compression damping quite independently of one another. In order that cavitation will not occur with a damper of hitherto known type, the damping force characteristics in the opposite stroke directions must be adjusted to one another. Preparing a valve for the next stroke without taking account of the damping force characteristic of the present stroke is therefore impossible, it being necessary for the stroke to be completed before the damping force characteristic of the valve can be changed. Owing to the time lag of the valves, the adjustment also occurs with a time lag which can give rise to an unwanted damping force characteristic and a risk of cavitation, which is particularly manifest in the case of rapid strokes and changes of position.

It is also important in the case of slow strokes and changes of position to be able to adjust the damping force characteristic simply, without significantly affecting the high-speed damping.

It is also desirable to provide an economic damper design in which the same valve construction can be used on both the compression and the return valve.

Summary of the invention

The invention as claimed in claim 1 describes a device comprising a damping medium-filled damper body in which an element forming a seal against the damper body, for example a piston or an arm, moves with a stroke induced by the relative movement between two parts of the vehicle, for example the chassis and a wheel/runner or the chassis and handlebars. The element forming a seal against the damper body divides the damper body into two chambers and has a low-pressure side and a high-pressure side owing to the pressure differences in the damping medium under said movement that is induced. A valve and connecting arrangement couples each of the damper chambers to a pressurizing element common to both of the chambers, so that even in the chamber in which a low pressure prevails there is a positive pressure acting at all times. A microprocessor control unit emits a continuous electrical signal, which controls parts of the damping force characteristic of the damper by adjusting the flow through at least one of the valve and connecting arrangements.

Sensors fitted to the vehicle and the damper supply the control unit with information on the state of the vehicle and the damper, and the control unit then uses the status information in order to calculate a suitable output signal, which is then sent to the valves, producing a varied damping.

The valve and connecting arrangement comprises at least one valve and a number of ducts. The arrangement preferably comprises an electrically controlled valve coupled in parallel to two non-return valves. These non-return valves are designed so that the pressurizing element is always coupled to the low-pressure side of the damper.

Since a pressurizing element is always coupled to the low-pressure side of the damper, this ensures that the pressure there never becomes less than zero, so-called positive pressure build-up. The fact that a positive pressure build-up prevails means that cavitation can be prevented and the damping force characteristic in both stroke directions can be adjusted quite separately and independently of one another.

By using two individually adjustable valves, the electrically controlled valve can already be prepared and adjusted to the optimum damping force characteristic for the next stroke whilst the current stroke is in progress. With this solution, the signal time lag affects neither the working nor the characteristic of the damper.

In the case of small strokes or slow movements, the damping medium flows through a separate leakage flow duct, a so-called "bleed duct". The duct may either be located directly in the part that separates the damper chamber into two parts, or it may be located outside the damper chamber. The main thing is that the leakage flow duct be located parallel to the valve and connecting arrangement. For example, it may be located in the same outer housing as that in which the valves are fitted. The flow area of the duct may be either predetermined or adjustable.

Since the damping medium flows in the same way through both the compression valve and the return valve, the same type of valve can be used for both stroke directions. This makes the design construction both easier and cheaper to produce.

An even simpler construction can be achieved by replacing one of the continuously controlled valves with a discretely controlled valve. This discrete valve may be embodied in a number of different ways, for example by a control unit programmed with a number of predetermined signal values or by a purely mechanical adjustment of the flow aperture through the valve. By placing a leakage flow duct parallel to the valve and connecting arrangement, the low-speed damping can be adjusted separately from the high-speed damping and the electrically adjustable valves can be adjusted to the correct damping characteristic whilst the damper is set up for small strokes and slow movements. A cheaper and simpler valve construction can furthermore be used for the electrically controlled valves.

Description of the drawings The invention is described in more detail below, with reference to the drawings attached, in which:

Fig. Ia shows a device according to a first embodiment of the invention Fig. Ib shows a device according to a second embodiment of the invention

Fig. Ic shows a device according to a third embodiment of the invention Fig. 2 shows a device according to a fourth embodiment of the invention Fig. 3 a shows the device fitted to a first type of front fork, taking a section through the adjustable valve Fig. 3b shows the first type of front fork, taking a section through the non-return valves Fig. 4 shows the device fitted to a second type of front fork

Detailed description of the invention Figs. Ia, Ib, Ic and 2 show a schematic diagram of three embodiments of the damper device designed according to claim 1. The parts common to all are described below.

The damper device 1 is designed to damp the movement between a fixed part C and a moving part MP of a vehicle, for example a car, a motorcycle, a snowmobile or an ATV. The fixed part is, for example, a part of the vehicle chassis whilst the moving part may be a wheel, a ski, a runner or a rotatable handlebar. The different embodiments of the damper will be explained in more detail in conjunction with the separate descriptions of the figures.

The damper device 1 comprises a part/damper body 2 which is sealed off from the surroundings and the internal volume of which is filled with damping medium and divided into two damper chambers 2a, 2b separated from one another by an element 5 forming a seal against the damper body. The sealing element 5 moves with a stroke predetermined by reciprocal movements of the vehicle parts C, MP. Under the reciprocating movements of the element 5 a high pressure is generated on the side in which the damping medium is compressed and a low pressure is generated on the side on which the damping medium expands. The damper chambers 2a, 2b therefore work alternately with a high or low pressure as their volume diminishes or increases.

A valve and connecting arrangement 4a, 4b/4c, which comprises at least one valve and a number of flow ducts, couples each damper chamber 2a, 2b to a pressurizing element 3 common to both of the chambers. That is to say the flow ducts are

coupled both to each of the damper chambers 2a, 2b and to the pressurizing element 3, and the flow between respective parts is adjusted by the valves. The pressurizing element may take the form of a vessel 3a, the interior of which is divided by a floating piston 3b, which is subjected to a pressure generated, for example, by gas 3c or a mechanical pressure element such as a spring 3c', Fig. Ib. The floating piston may also be replaced by a pressurized rubber bladder or the like.

The placing of the pressurizing element serves to control the valve and connecting arrangement 4a, 4b/4c, so that pressurized damping medium is always coupled to the low-pressure chamber 2a/2b. The pressure in the low-pressure chamber 2a/2b is therefore always positive, that is to say greater than zero, and cavitation can be prevented.

This valve and connecting arrangement 4a, 4b/4c also controls the entire damping force characteristic of the damper 1 by adjusting the flow through this. The adjustment is made either via a microprocessor control unit SU, which emits a continuous electrical signal Ua, Ub, or via an electrical, mechanical or hydraulic unit 4c, which delivers a discrete predetermined signal or a specific flow. Since the valve and connecting arrangements 4a, 4b/4c are entirely separated from one another by the sealing element 5, the flow in both stroke directions can be adjusted quite independently of one another.

Sensors S fitted to the vehicle register both ambient characteristics O, for example the state of the road, unevenness etc., and the status of the damper device 1, for example stroke length and pressure in each chamber 2a, 2b. Sensors such as accelerometers, pressure sensors, height sensors and angle sensors, for example, can be used to measure ambient characteristics and characteristics of the vehicle.

The sensors S supply the control unit SU with status information which is then converted by the pre-programmed microprocessor into a suitable output signal Ua, Ub for controlling the continuously controlled valve and connecting arrangements 4a, 4b. A suitable output signal Ua, Ub is adjusted to provide precisely the optimum damping for the forthcoming events inferred.

Since the valve and connecting arrangements 4a, 4b, 4c are entirely separated from one another, it is possible in the case of rapid strokes and swift changes in position to send the output signals Ua, Ub to the respective valve and connecting arrangement 4a, 4b whilst the current stroke is still in progress. The time lag that occurs before the respective separately continuously controlled valve unit has adjusted to the required position consequently affects neither the functioning nor the characteristic of the damper. The positive pressure build-up in the low-pressure chamber of the damper means that cavitation cannot occur in the damper, which also means that damping in both stroke directions can be optimized independently of one another.

The continuously controlled valve and connecting arrangement 4a, 4b comprises a number of ducts in conjunction with three valve units; a continuously adjustable and electrically controlled main valve CES, a non-return valve SV and a separate valve, a so-called bleed valve BV.

The non-return valve SV is designed so that the pressurizing element 3 is always coupled to the low-pressure side of the damper. The bleed valve BV is designed so that the damping medium passes via said valve in the case of small strokes or slow movements in which the forces are not so great that main valve CES opens. The bleed valve BV therefore works in parallel with the main valve CES but in the case of large damping medium flows the flow resistance in the bleed valve BV is so great that the damping medium instead flows through the significantly larger flow ducts of the main valve CES.

The bleed valve BV may be located outside the damper chamber (see Fig. Ia), for example it may be located in the same outer housing 7, 15 (see Fig. 3 a and 4) as that in which the main valves CES are fitted. A separate bleed valve BV may also be located directly in the part 5, 5', which separates the part 2 forming an external seal into two chambers 2a, 2b (see Fig. Ib and 4).

The flow which the bleed valve BV allows to pass through may be either predetermined or adjustable. The adjustment can be achieved, for example, by

exchanging flow-limiting parts, such as shims, or by a separate externally actuatable body which is located in the duct, the position of which determines the flow. The position can be adjusted manually, electrically, hydraulically, pneumatically or magnetically, for example.

In the embodiment described in Fig. Ia, the part 2 forming an external seal is a damping cylinder. The damping cylinder 2 is divided by a piston 5 into a compression chamber 2a and a return chamber 2b. The piston is fastened to a piston rod 6, which may extend from one or both sides of the piston.

The embodiment with a piston rod passing right through is shown in Fig. Ib. With a piston rod 6' passing right through, the pressurizing element 3 does not need to take up the damping medium, which in an embodiment having a piston rod that does not pass right through is pushed in front of the piston owing to the displacement of the piston rod. The pressurizing element 3 can therefore be designed with smaller dimensions and adapted to only take up the variations in volume that occur in the event of temperature changes.

In both Figs. Ia, Ib and Ic the damper device 1 is fixed at one end to a vehicle chassis C, on a car, a motorcycle, a snowmobile or an ATV, for example, and at the other end is fixed via the piston rod 6', 6 to a moving part of the vehicle, such as a wheel or a ski MP, for example.

Fig. Ic shows an embodiment comparable with Figs. Ia and Ib, but one of the continuously electrically controlled valves is replaced by a valve unit, which comprises a non-return valve SV, a bleed valve BV and a discretely adjustable valve Vr. This discrete valve Vr may be embodied in a number of different ways, for example by a control unit programmed with a number of predetermined signal values or by a purely mechanical adjustment of the flow aperture through the valve. Making this valve Vr non- microprocessor-controlled affords a less expensive solution.

In Fig. 2 the damper device takes the form of a previously known vane damper having an outer housing 2 fixed to a vehicle chassis C and divided into two

damper chambers 2a, 2b by an arm 5". The vane damper is preferably used as a control damper in which the arm 5" rotates about its one end 5a" and is at the same end 5a" also coupled to a steering device MP, not shown . When uneven ground or varying road conditions cause a severe movement of the handlebars or wheel of the steering device, the vane damper 1" damps the movement and accidents can be avoided. The valve units 4a, 4b are coupled to both of the chambers 2a and 2b and to the pressurizing element 3 in the same way as in the embodiments described above. The vane damper can also be used to absorb the forces between the chassis and the wheel of a vehicle.

Fig. 3a shows a front fork with an electrically adjustable damping according to the idea of the invention. In this embodiment the front fork has a piston rod 6 working with a solid piston 5 in an damper chamber 2. The damper is pressurized by the pressurizing element 3 arranged in the bottom piece 7 of the front fork. The valve units 4a, 4b are also fitted in the same bottom piece 7. In this embodiment the valve units 4a, 4b comprise a non-return valve function and the electrically controlled variable valve CES. The leakage flow that occurs at low speeds is adjusted via two separate bleed valves 10a, 10b, one for the return stroke and one for the compression stroke. The location of the bleed valve 10a, 10b is shown more precisely in Fig. 3b, from which it can be seen that it is arranged parallel to the valve housing 4a, 4b. The adjustment of the quantity of oil that is allowed to pass through the bleed valve 10a, 10b, thereby controlling the low-speed damping, is done manually from outside by means of a screwdriver, for example.

On a high-speed return stroke the hydraulic oil flows out through holes 8 in the upper part of the damping cylinder 2 and in via a flow duct between the outer leg 9 and the damping cylinder 2 into the return valve unit 4a. The flow through valve unit 4a is adjusted via the signal Ua from the control unit SU. The space 11 between the valve units 4a, 4b is pressurized by the pressurizing element 3 and the damping medium that is allowed to pass through the valve unit 4a is therefore also pressurized before flowing via the non-return valve function of the other valve unit 4b back into the damper chamber 2.

On a high-speed compression stroke the damping medium flows via the line 12 to and through the compression valve unit 4b controlled via the signal Ub. The medium then passes through the pressurized space 11 between the valve units before passing through the non-return valve function in the valve unit 4a to be led into the flow duct between the outer leg 9 and the damping cylinder 2, in order to finally pressurize the compression side of the piston 5.

Fig. 4 shows yet another front fork, the piston rod 6 this time being fastened to the bottom piece 13. The damping cylinder 2 is arranged at the upper end of the front fork and a further cylinder 14 is located outside this. These two cylinders 2, 14 together with the head 15 form a unit 16, which also comprises the valve units 4a, 4b. The valve units 4a, 4b are located placed parallel with one another in turned recesses in the head 15 and are coupled to the pressurizing element 3 via a flow duct 16. The valve units 4a, 4b are, here too, controlled by the control unit SU, which sends the signals Ua and Ub to the main valve CES. The valve units 4a, 4b work on the same principle as in previous embodiments. The piston 5, which is fastened to the piston rod 6, may be solid or designed to allow a certain flow to pass through. If a certain flow is allowed through the piston 5, the external valve BV may be of smaller dimensions than in the case of a solid piston 5.

The invention shall not be limited to the description above or the drawings attached, but may be modified without departing from the scope of the patent claims.