Slocum, Alexander H. (One Merrill Crossing, Bow, NH, 03304, US)
Vrsek, Gary (7551 Maltey, Brighton, MA, 48116, US)
Shaikh, Fzafar (1535 Bloomingdale Drive, Troy, MI, 48098, US)
|1.||A method of quasikinematic coupling of two matable vehicular engine components with repeatable location alignment of their mating surfaces, that comprises, providing the mating surfaces with correspondingly disposed respective sets of three nonsymmetrically spaced grooves and corresponding mating protrusions, each of the grooves and protrusions being formed as surfaces of revolution; bringing the mating surfaces together to establish six lines of groove protrusion contact, two lines at each mating groove and protrusion, and with a small gap maintained between the two components mating surfaces; and clamping by forcing the components together to seat the protrusions in the grooves and seal the gap to effect the coupling with the two component mating surfaces in contact.|
|2.||The method of claim 1 wherein the surface of revolution of the contacting grooves and protrusions are conical and spherical surfaces, respectively.|
|3.||The method of claim 1 wherein the sets of grooves and protrusions are relatively elastically and plastically compliant to effect their seating and the resultant sealing of the gap with the two component mating surfaces brought into contact.|
|4.||The method of claim 3 wherein, upon withdrawal of the force clamping the components together, the mating surfaces thereof resiliently separate, and with location alignment repeatability.|
|5.||The method of claim 1 wherein the grooves are provided with relief features to define the effective orientation of contact.|
|6.||A quasikinematic coupling adapted for repeatable alignment of vehicular engine mating components having, in combination, two matable engine components having opposing surfaces which are to be aligned and mated in coupling; one component mating surface being provided with a set of three unsymmetrically spaced grooves, and the other component mating surface being provided with a corresponding set of unsymmetrically spaced protrusions, with each of the grooves and protrusions being formed as surfaces of revolution, such that, when brought into contact, six lines of groovesprotrusion contact are established, two lines at each mating groove and protrusion, and with a small gap maintained between the two component mating surfaces; and means for clamping the components together to seat the protrusions at the grooves and seal the gap to effect the coupling with the two component mating surfaces in contact.|
|7.||The coupling of claim 6 wherein the surfaces of revolution of the contacting grooves and protrusions are conical and spherical surfaces of revolution, respectively.|
|8.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein the spherical surfaces are harder than the groove surfaces.|
|9.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein the sets of grooves and protrusions are relatively elastically and plastically compliant to effect their seating and the resultant seating of the gap with the two component mating surfaces brought into contact.|
|10.||The coupling of claim 9 wherein, upon withdrawal of the clamping force clamping the components together, the mating surfaces thereof resiliently separate, and with location alignment repeatability.|
|11.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein the conical grooves are provided with relief features to define the effective orientation of the contact.|
|12.||The coupling claimed in claim 7, wherein the spherical or conical members are pressed into one component surface, and have hollow centers for receiving bolts or shafts.|
|13.||The coupling as claimed in claim 11 wherein the conical groove relief features are cast in the component surface, and the contact surfaces are machined.|
|14.||The coupling claimed in claim 7 wherein the combinations of said conical grooves and spherical protrusions on the two components enable quasikinematic coupling between them.|
|15.||The coupling claimed in claim 6 wherein the components are repeatably locatable with respect to each other, and with the application of a preload force, opposing surfaces of the components come into contact and form a face seal.|
|16.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein the transverse stiffness of the coupling from the transverse stiffness of the quasikinematic coupling is decoupled through the resistance to motion due to friction between the contact surfaces.|
|17.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein the stiffness of the coupling in the mated directions from the stiffness of the quasikinematic coupling is decoupled through the resistances to motion which exist due to the clamping force and the contact of the mated surfaces.|
|18.||The coupling of claim 7 wherein means is provided for changing the orientation of the kinematic coupling to provide maximum resistance to error loads in a plane perpendicular to the mating direction, while maintaining resistance to motion in the same plane, but perpendicular to said direction.|
|19.||A method of quasikinematic coupling of internal combustion engine components providing each component with either three unsymmetrically spaced or corresponding unsymmetrically spaced mating protrusions, such that upon mating of the grooves and protrusions, a small gap is maintained between one or more surfaces of the two components; and clamping by forcing the components together to seat the protrusions in the grooves and seal the gap to effect the coupling with the two component mating surfaces in contact.|
BACKGROUND Better precision at lower cost is a major driving force in design and manufacturing.
Traditionally, precision assemblies have used precision pins and holes for part alignments; but the demands of manufacturing processes have now pushed performance requirements beyond the approximately ten micron repeatability limits of such techniques. Next generation assemblies, such as, for example, automotive assemblies and machining fixtures, require low cost methods of assembly with consistently better than ten microns repeatability. The present invention is accordingly directed to a fundamentally new kinematic coupling, termed here a"quasi- kinematic"coupling, which meets the more stringent demands of these processes.
While certain types of prior kinematic couplings have been used to provide affordable sub- micron repeatability, their operation generally leaves gaps between the mated components, and they are therefore not well-suited for those types of precision assembly applications that require contact or sealing, such as in casting. This problem has been addressed in part by compliant kinematic couplings as described in US Patent 5,678,944, Flexural Mount Kinematic Coupling Method, of co-assignee Advanced Engineering Systems Operation and Products (AESOP) Inc. These types of couplings kinematically locate components and then allow translation parallel to the mating direction until contact is made between the desired surfaces. Though constituting a significant improvement, such couplings are not ideally suited for use in high volume manufacturing and assembly processes, due to the cost of manufacturing and assembling the flexural and kinematic components. Another limitation of these couplings resides in their inability to be arranged so that most of the resistance to error-causing loads is aligned in a common direction, while maintaining high stiffness in an orthogonal direction.
The present invention, on the other hand, as later more fully explained, overcomes such limitations by using conical shaped grooves with relieved sides which can direct a desired portion of their error resistance along a direction without seriously compromising the resistance to error in an orthogonal direction. Accomplishing this function in prior classical or flexural kinematic couplings is not achievable since their use of conventional straight V grooves leaves one degree of freedom and with very low stiffness.
In further, US Patent No. 5,769,554, also of common assignee, an invention is described for use in sand casting and similar applications which incorporates kinematic elements into parts of the mold in a manner that admirably solves this problem, though only for low precision or sand mold assemblies and the like. The use of this coupling in large scale assembly and locating applications is, however, somewhat limited due to the fact that the kinematic elements must be pre-formed into the components. This technique, therefore, is not well suited for coupling situations requiring precision assemblies where machining of the mating surfaces is required as with automobile engine components; more specifically, in high precision assembly activities where the mating of the components is dependent upon the depth and size of the kinematic elements (i. e. grooves). For such high precision assemblies, this geometric relationship is sensitive enough that the capability of net shape manufacturing processes is insufficient to hold the relation between the kinematic features and the mating surface.
While this problem may be addressed by machining the contact surfaces of the mated components, this would destroy the geometric relationship initially imparted to the components by the net shape process, nullifying the advantage of pre-formed elements.
In the absence of the ability to form, as, for example, by casting these kinematic features, they must be machined. Machining straight grooves into components requires translation motion in a minimum of two directions; depth perpendicular to the mating surface and translation in a direction contained in the plane defined by the contact surface. In comparison, though the present invention is based upon, uses, and embraces the principles of said patents and of said co- pending application, it introduces a novel design which orients the kinematic elements in a way which enhances the stiffness in a desired sensitive direction without substantially degrading the repeatability in the non-sensitive orthogonal direction.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION An object of the present invention, accordingly, is to provide a new and improved low cost quasi-kinematic coupling and method which enable repeatably locating two or more vehicle components, surfaces, or assemblies or the like without any of the above-described or other limitations of prior couplings.
A further object is to provide such a novel coupling in which opposing surfaces of the engine components or the like are allowed to come into intimate contact and form a sealable joint, and wherein repeatability is less sensitive to errors in the relative placement of the kinematic elements, and with the transverse stiffness of the coupling decoupled from the transverse quasi-kinematic coupling stiffness by relying on the resistance to motion due to friction between the surfaces of the mated components, and the stiffness of the coupling in the mated direction is decoupled from the quasi-kinematic coupling stiffness by relying on the resistance to motion due to a clamping force and the contact of the mated surfaces.
Another object of the invention is to provide a quasi-kinematic coupling of engine components and the like in which the orientation of its kinematic elements can be set to provide maximum resistance to error-causing loads in a plane perpendicular to the mating direction, while maintaining resistance to motion in the same plane, but perpendicular (orthogonal) to the sensitive direction.
Other and further objects will be explained hereinafter and are more fully delineated in the appended claims.
SUMMARY In summary, from one of its important aspects, the invention embraces a method of quasi- kinematic coupling of two matable vehicle engine components with repeatable location alignment of their mating surfaces, that comprises, providing the mating surfaces with correspondingly disposed respective sets of three non-symmetrically space grooves and corresponding mating protrusions, each of the grooves and protrusions being formed as surfaces of revolution, bringing the mating surfaces together to establish six lines of groove-protrusion contact, two lines at each mating groove and protrusion, and with a small gap maintained between the two components mating surfaces; and clamping by forcing the components together to seat the protrusions in the grooves and seal the gap to effect the coupling with the two component mating surfaces in contact.
This invention is a fundamentally new kinematic coupling for use in precision alignment of product components, tooling, and fixtures and the like which require a repeatable, low cost manufacturing and assembly process, and it incorporates conical grooves, sometimes with accompanying side reliefs, into one mated component and spherical members into the other component. These elements can either be machined directly into the mating components or attached to them. This is herein described as"quasi-kinematic"because the relative position of the mated components is defined by six lines of contact at the kinematic interfaces, as distinguished from six points of contact used in a true kinematic coupling. The line contact results from mating two surfaces of revolution, the conical groove and the spherical peg.
The six lines of contact (two at each sphere-groove interface) act to define the six relative degrees of freedom between the mated components. This is a weakly over-constrained system that still effectively acts like a kinematic coupling. The interface is designed such that a small gap is left between contacting surfaces in order to ensure the kinematic nature of the joint. A force is then applied to properly seat the spherical members in the grooves. Specific compliance characteristics can be designed into the kinematic elements, making it possible for them to deform under additional preload, even to the point where the opposed surrounding planar surfaces touch. When the clamping force is released, all or a fraction of the gap is restored through elastic or resilient recovery of the kinematic element material, thus ensuring that the next mate will still be quasi-kinematic.
The coupling is readily designed or incorporated into existing parts since the kinematic elements can be made by simple, low cost manufacturing processes. Its application is especially suited to applications which have traditionally heretofore used pinned joints, including many medium and large scale manufacturing processes such as casting, assembly, and fixturing.
Preferred and best mode design and operation methods are hereinafter detailed.
DRAWINGS The aforementioned invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawing in which: FIG. 1 is an illustration of a generic quasi-kinematic coupling constructed in accordance with the invention of said co-pending application and the principles of which are used in the vehicle engine application of the present invention; FIG. 2 is a detail of a generic quasi-kinematic spherical element; FIG. 3 is a detail of a crowned peg used in the assembly of an internal combustion engine; FIG. 4 is a detail of a generic quasi-kinematic conical groove; FIG. 5 is a two-dimensional view of several quasi-kinematic grooves with different contact angles; FIG. 6 is a cross section of a generic quasi-kinematic joint clamped together by a bolt; FIG. 7 details the contact lines in a quasi-kinematic coupling's conical groove; FIG. 8 shows a tool which can simultaneously machine a conical groove and drill a hole; FIG. 9 shows side reliefs of a conical groove cast in prior to the machining of the seats; FIG. 10 shows a conical groove with cast in side reliefs after machining with a form tool; FIG. 11 shows the error caused by misalignment of the bore and bedplate center lines; FIG. 12 shows an engine block equipped for use with a quasi-kinematic coupling in accordance with the present invention; FIG. 13 shows an engine bedplate equipped for use with a quasi-kinematic coupling; FIG. 14 is an exploded view of a generic reciprocating internal combustion engine; FIG. 15 shows the elements of a typical pinned joint incorporated into an engine bedplate; FIG. 16 is a three-dimensional view of half of an aligned quasi-kinematic coupling; FIG. 17 is a two-dimensional view of half of an aligned quasi-kinematic coupling; FIG. 18 is a three-dimensional view of the half of an aligned kinematic coupling; FIG. 19 is a two-dimensional view of the half of an aligned kinematic coupling; FIG. 20 is a schematic illustrating the most stable orientation of a kinematic coupling; FIG. 21 is a schematic illustrating an unstable orientation of a kinematic coupling; FIG. 22 is a view further clarifying the orientation of the kinematic components in FIG.
20; and FIG. 23 is a similar view further clarifying the orientation of the kinematic components in FIG. 21.
FIG. 24 is a view which illustrates how a quasi-kinematic coupling can be used to define a repeatable mate between engine heads and blocks for the purposes of the present invention.
PREFERRED EMBODIMENT (S) OF THE INVENTION FIG. 1 shows the open coupling 2-4 of the invention of said co-pending application in its generic form. The coupling consists of three spaced conical grooves 3a, 3b, and 3c attached to or machined into the inner surface 25 of the first (lower) component 4, and three corresponding spherical peg or protruding elements la, lb, and Ic attached or machined into the opposing or inner surface 26 of the second (upper) component 2, FIGS. 1 and 2. When such a coupling is initially mated, each spherical protrusion element la, lb, and lc contacts its corresponding conical groove 3a, 3b, and 3c, and surfaces 25 and 26 will be parallel and separated by a small gap.
This contact takes place on seats of the conical grooves, as shown at 7a and 7b for the illustrative groove 3a, in FIG. 4 and FIG. 7. The contact can be modeled as along lines 17a and 17b, FIG. 7, since the surfaces of the spherical elements la, lb, and lc and the surfaces of the conical grooves 3a, 3b, and 3c are surfaces of revolution. With each conical groove 3a, 3b, and 3c having reliefs 8a and 8b at the appropriate location, the contact areas can be made to resemble those of a kinematic coupling.
FIG. 5 shows four views of conical grooves with varying contact angles (Oo, O,, 02, 03) at 59a, 59b, 59c, and 59d, respectively. As the contact angle of the seats 10a, lOb, 10c, and 10d increases, as by decreasing relief zones lla, llb, llc, and lld, respectively, the coupling becomes more like a deterministic kinematic coupling. The benefit of reducing the contact angle 59 is limited by the contact stress, which increases with decreasing contact angle O.
The resulting contact defines a near kinematic or"quasi-kinematic"definition of six degrees of freedom between the first component 2 and second component 4, as before described.
Practically, due to manufacturing errors, only a portion of the seats 7a and 7b in a joint will contact the surface of the spherical member, such as the member la shown in FIG. 3. This situation, in addition to friction forces at the sphere-groove contact interface, can prevent the first component 2 from settling into its most stable equilibrium. This can further be prevented with a preload force (schematically shown as F in FIG. 1) that is ideally parallel to the mating direction and large enough to overcome the contact friction and properly seat the spherical member la in its groove 3a. Once the preload is applied, the coupling defines a repeatable mate. In addition, if the mating of the opposed faces 25 and 26 of components 4 and 2 respectively, is desired, compliance characteristics (elastic and plastic) can be designed into the kinematic elements la, lb, lc, 3a, 3b, and 3c so that additional preload force causes them resiliently to deform and allow the opposing surfaces 25 and 26 to contact, thereby forming a sealable joint.
Depending upon several factors, including the manufacturing capability of the machines used to make and locate the kinematic elements la, lb, Ic, 3a, 3b, and 3c, shown generically in FIG. 1, the size of the mated gap 60 seen in the cross section in FIG. 6, will vary. Ideally, the gap variation will be such that mating of the opposed surfaces 25 and 26 will require only elastic deformation of the kinematic elements la, lb, lc, 3a, 3b, and 3c. However, when the manufacturing process is not capable of holding the required tolerances, plastic deformation of the kinematic elements la, lb, lc, 3a, 3b, and 3c may occur. In either case, after the initial mate, the material in the kinematic elements la, lb, lc, 3a, 3b, and 3c will recover elastically, restoring a portion of the initial gap 60. This is necessary to maintain the quasi-kinematic nature of the joint for future mating sequences.
The use of this device is more clearly illustrated in the context of applications underlying the present invention such as the manufacture and assembly of reciprocating internal combustion engines, hereinafter referred to as RIC engines. FIG. 14 and FIG. 15 show the crankshaft 61, journal bearings 38a-38j, alignment pins 32a-32j, and fastening bolts 39a-39t common to these types of engines. The crankshaft 61 is held between the journal bearings 38a-38j which reside in the block 34 and the bedplate 30. In either case, during operation, the rotation of the crank 61 induces a pressurized oil film in the gap between the crank shaft 61 and main bearings 38a-38j. There is an optimal gap (on the order of 0.01 to 0.10 mm) between the bearings 38a- 38j and the crank shaft 61 which results in a minimum coefficient of friction for a particular design. Deviation from the optimal gap results in an increased coefficient of friction and increased power loss.
As the relative location and size of the half bores 29a-29e and 37a-37e seen in FIG. 12 and 13 are critical, many RIC engines are manufactured by clamping the block 34 and bedplate 30 together, then simultaneously machining the bearing bore halves 29a-29e and 37a-37e.
Later, the block 34 and bedplate 30 must be disassembled for crank shaft 61 and main bearing 38a-38j installation, then reassembled. Error in relocating the bedplate 30 and block 34 results in a departure from the nominal gap between the journal bearings 38a-38j and crank shaft 61.
The allowable misalignment 64 seen in FIG. 11 between the block bore center line 27 and bedplate bore center line 28 is quantified by specifications on the order of five microns.
FIGS. 14 and 15 show a traditional pinned joint often used to locate the block 34 and bedplate 30. The pins 32a-32j are fitted into corresponding holes in the block 34. Often, good repeatability can only be achieved with the elastic averaging effect achieved with a multiplicity of pinned joints (8 or more.) This makes manufacture of the joints difficult as the location of the hole patterns in each component as well as the relative location of the individual holes must be held to tight tolerances (on the order of 0.02 mm). Many manufacturing operations which machine these features have high scrap or re-work rates due to the difficulty of holding these tolerances. Other methods for defining position such as slotted joints and V in flats can be used; such, however are grossly over-constrained and their performance is susceptible to contaminants.
The present invention provides a low cost alternative to these prior methods. A quasi- kinematic coupling of the invention can readily be incorporated into RIC engines in many ways, one of which is shown in FIG. 12 and FIG. 13. Three conical grooves 35a, 35b, and 35c are thereshown be machined into the block 34 and three crowned pegs 33a, 33b, 33c are pressed into corresponding holes in the bedplate 30. A crowned peg la, as shown in FIG. 3, can be inexpensively made as a semi-precision piece in a turning operation. Since the conical grooves 35a, 35b, and 35c and press fit holes can be created by revolving tools, their placement is well suited, but not limited, to be aligned with features which are manufactured by revolving tools (i. e. drilled holes.) This allows the simultaneous machining of the conical grooves 35a, 35b, and 35c and additional features with a form tool 31 shown in FIG. 8. In the case of an RIC engine, the placement of the joints is best suited to be coaxial with the bolt holes used to hold the components together. The form tool 31 can also be used in conjunction with pre-cast reliefs 22a and 22b, shown in FIG. 9, to form the joint seen in FIG. 10. The structures of the engine components-to-be-mated invariably provide non-symmetrical spacings amongst the three grooves and the corresponding three pegs or protrusions, and do not lend themselves to symmetrical equilateral spacings as, for example, in the illustration of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 and FIG. 4 show holes 50a and 49a in the kinematic elements through which bolts such as 39a (FIG. 14) can pass. In addition, the joints should be located over features which form the largest triangle that will fit within the perimeter of the components. This is desired to provide maximum resistance to the torsion loads induced by the friction between the heads of the bolts 39a, etc. and the lower surface 71 of the bedplate 30. The areas for this interface can most clearly seen in FIG. 14.
As shown in FIG. 9, the pre-machined reliefs 22a and 22b can be economically manufactured by casting. This is permissible as the depth of the reliefs 22a and 22b need not be precisely located with respect to the mated surface 25. In addition, if the position of reliefs 22a, and 22b in the plane of the mated surface 25 is on the order of the capabilities of most the casting processes, it will not have a significant effect on the repeatability of the coupling. In FIGS. 12 and 13, for example, plastic deformation of the kinematic elements 33a, 33b, 33c, 35a, 35b, and 35c during the initial mating, forces alignment of the elements 33a, 33b, 33c, 35a, 35b, and 35c.
Alternatively, one could machine in these features, but in most cases at substantial added cost.
With reference to FIG. 6, it has earlier been stated that quasi-kinematic couplings of the invention initially have a small gap 60 between the mating surfaces 25 and 26. In an RIC engine, this gap is on the order of 0.10 mm. FIGS. 12 and 13 show the spherical members 33a, 33b, and 33c which are seated in the grooves 35a, 35b, and 35c. After seating, a series of bolts 39a-39t are tightened, forcing the mating faces 40a, 40b and 41a, 41b of the block 34 and bedplate 30 respectively together. As this happens, the pegs 33a, 33b, and 33c mate with the conical grooves 35a, 35b, and 35c. Depending on system dimensions and bolt forces applied, some plastic yielding may occur. The machining of the engine then proceeds as normal. When the components are disassembled for crank shaft 61 and main bearing 38a-38j installation, part or all of the initial gap 60 is restored through elastic recovery. Whether the whole or a fraction of the gap 60 is restored depends on the nature of the initial deformation. If the deformation was purely elastic, all of the initial gap 60 will be recovered. If the initial deformation was elastic and plastic, only a fraction of the gap 60 will be recovered. Restoration of gap 60 is, however, necessary to maintain the quasi-kinematic nature of the coupling by insuring that the mating surfaces 40a, 40b, 41a, and 41b do not contact before the pegs 33a, 33b, 33c and conical grooves 35a, 35b, 35c. After the bearings 38a-38j are installe in the engine, the block 34 and bedplate 30 are mated again and fastened together.
Important design parameters of the quasi-kinematic joint of the invention will now be examined with reference to FIGS. 3,4, and 5. The two radii of the spherical member la, for example, the two radii of the corresponding conical groove 3a, the seat contact angle 59 (O), the depth of the conical groove 3a, the depth of the side reliefs 8a and 8b, and the materials used for the peg la and conical groove 3a are the most important parameters. It is desired to choose the design parameters such that the surface of the spherical element such as la, does not undergo plastic deformation. If this is not avoided, the edges of the groove seats 62a, 62b, 62c, and 62d will leave indentations in the surface of the spherical element la, etc. This will adversely affect the repeatability of the coupling as during re-mating, the indentations will catch at random locations on the edges of the conical grooves 62a, 62b, 62c, and 62d. The result is an additional error in the location of the kinematic coupling which may not be correctable by additional preload. Choosing materials such that the spherical member la is harder than the conical groove 3a and optimizing the dimensions of the kinematic elements via finite element analysis are thus recommended.
Another important design consideration is the clamping force F. For instance, consider again the RIC engine shown in FIG. 14. During operation, there are loads induced by the normal operation of the engine which could cause relative movement between the block 34 and bedplate 30 if the joint between them was not suitably rigid. The components normal to the mated surfaces 40a, 40b, 41a, and 41b are counteracted by the force supplie by the bolts 39a-39t and the force supplie by the contact between the surfaces 40a, 40b, 41a, and 41b. The loads which act to shear the two apart are counteracted by friction resistance between mated faces 40a, 40b, 41a, and 41b. The clamping load and coefficient of friction should be chosen to provide an adequate friction force to resist all applied loads, even if the kinematic components were absent.
In certain applications, a glue or sealing agent can be introduced between the mated components which will act to seal the interface or maintain joint position.
Transverse stiffness of the coupling is decoupled through the resistance to motion due to friction between the mating surfaces, and the stiffness in the direction of mating is decoupled through the resistance to motion due to the clamping force and the contact of the mated surfaces.
In some applications where a kinematic joint is used coaxial with a tapped hole, an additional relief 45 may be required, as illustrated in FIG. 6. The deformation in the first threads 53 of the taped hole can cause deformation in the groove seats 63a and 63b. To avoid this, the threads 53 should start far enough from the seats 63a and 63b so that the deformation in the threads 53 does not affect the geometry of the seats 63a and 63b. If space is limited, finite element analysis is well suited to determine the minimum size of the relief needed to accomplish this.
Quasi kinematic couplings of the invention have many benefits over traditional kinematic couplings and other alignment methods, as earlier pointed out. For instance, as shown in FIG.
11, repeatability (minimizing the error 64) is only important in one direction perpendicular to the bore center lines 27 and 28 and contained in the plane of the mated surfaces 40a, 40b, 41a, and 41b. In a traditional kinematic coupling, the grooves are orientated as shown in FIGS. 20 and FIG. 22. Ideally, the tangents 54a, 54b, and 54c to the planes containing the normal force vectors 51a, 51b, 52a, 52b, 53a, and 53b bisect the angles of the coupling triangle (sides 67a, 67b, and 67c.) Were one to align the grooves as shown in FIGS. 18,19,21, and 23, the tangents 57a, 57b, and 57c to the planes containing the normal force vectors 55a, 55b, 56a, 56b, 57a, and 57b would be parallel, as shown in FIG. 21. This would result in a coupling which is better able to resist error-causing loads in the y (sensitive) direction. This coupling, however, would not constrain motion in the orthogonal x direction. FIG. 16 and FIG. 17 representing three and two- dimensional views of half an aligned quasi-kinematic coupling, show the curved seats 65a, 65b, 65c, 65d, 65e, and 65f of a quasi-kinematic couplings wherein this curvature allows nominal orientation of the conical grooves 42a, 42b, and 42c, thus maximizing resistance to errors in the y (sensitive) direction without greatly compromising the resistance to motion in the x direction.
This is compared with the designs of kinematic couplings shown in the corresponding three and two-dimensional views of FIG. 18 and 19.
Quasi-kinematic couplings also have other benefits over pinned joints. They are less expensive to manufacture since the kinematic elements require little precision machining and can be made with standard manufacturing processes. This, in conjunction with fewer components, make their use more economical and less complex than pinned joints. When comparing repeatability, a quasi-kinematic coupling constructed in accordance with the present invention, such as shown in FIG. 1, can attain 1 micron repeatability at a fraction of the cost of a pinned joint, which is typically only capable of five-ten micron repeatability. In addition, quasi- kinematic coupling joint placements are less sensitive to misalignment, since a spherical element, such as la, can easily fit into a conical hole 3a which is somewhat misaligned; then, through elastic/plastic deformation, make it conform during the initial mate. Increased clamping force F causes the surfaces 25 and 26 to touch without a loss of relative repeatability, thereby allowing the joint to be sealed. In comparison, the pinned joint method is intolerant and incapable of eliminating initial misalignment. Another benefit is that clamping the components together in a quasi-kinematic coupling, forces each spherical element into a conical groove, thereby inducing a centering effect which forces the mated components 2 and 4 into a best overall position. When using the pinned joint method, on the other hand, a centering effect does not occur.
In alternative embodiments, this coupling may also be used, as before stated, in the precision alignment of product components, parts to machine tool fixtures, machine tool fixtures to machines, casting molds, RIC engine blocks and heads and the like. Fig. 24 shows an example of an engine head 72 equipped with quasi-kinematic elements 71a, 71b, 71c that mate with corresponding quasi-kinematic grooves in the block 34. In this application, repeatable coupling is desired to minimize misalignment between the combustion chambers 73a, 73b, 73c, 73d and the cylinders in the block. Other applications in RIC engines include fuel injector components, manifold to block mates, and other areas where close fit tolerances or bearing clusters are required. Variations, modifications, and other implementations of what is described herein will also occur to those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention as claimed. Accordingly, the invention is to be defined not just by the preceding illustrative description, but instead by the spirit and scope of the following claims.