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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
MECHANICAL ENERGY ABSORPTION SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/075659
Kind Code:
A3
Abstract:
A tube comprising an outer tube section with a stepped outer surface and an inner tube section, with the inner tube section being located within the outer tube section. The tube also comprises a spanning section connecting an end of the outer tube section to an end of the inner tube section. The outer tube section is longer than the inner tube section, whereby, upon undergoing a longitudinal impact, the outer tube section crushing predictably and sooner than the inner tube section upon the energy management tube receiving forces from the longitudinal impact, to thereby create a first energy absorption level during crushing of the outer tube section alone and a second energy absorption level during crushing of the outer tube section and the inner tube section. The inner tube section tapers from a larger area at a second inner end to a smaller area at the first inner end.

Inventors:
EVANS DARIN (US)
Application Number:
US2006/048392
Publication Date:
December 21, 2007
Filing Date:
December 19, 2006
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NETSHAPE ENERGY MAN LLC (US)
EVANS DARIN (US)
International Classes:
B60R19/34
Foreign References:
US20050110285A12005-05-26
US4830417A1989-05-16
US5460416A1995-10-24
US5632507A1997-05-27
US6626474B12003-09-30
US6299239B12001-10-09
US3251076A1966-05-17
Other References:
See also references of EP 1963141A4
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DOLCE, Marcus, P. (Heneveld Cooper, Dewitt & Litton, LLP,695 Kenmoor, S.E.,P.O. Box 256, Grand Rapids MI, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

I claim:

1. An energy management tube adapted to reliably and predictably absorb substantial impact energy when impacted longitudinally, comprising: an outer first tube section and an inner second tube section, the inner second tube section being at least partially located within the outer first tube section, the outer first tube section having a stepped outer surface; at least one spanning section connecting a first outer end of the outer first tube section to a first inner end of the inner second tube section; the outer first tube section being longer than the inner second tube section, whereby, upon undergoing a longitudinal impact, the outer first tube section crushing predictably and sooner than the inner second tube section upon the energy management tube receiving forces from the longitudinal impact, to thereby create a first energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section alone and a second energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section and the inner second tube section; wherein the inner first tube section tapers from a larger area at a second inner end to a smaller area at the first inner end.

2. The energy management tube defined in claim 1, wherein the inner first tube section includes a plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions.

3. The energy management tube defined in claim 1, wherein the taper is not constant.

4. The energy management tube defined in claim 3, wherein the inner first tube section includes a plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions, each smaller diameter inner first tube portion having a taper from a larger region closer to the second inner end of the inner first tube section to a smaller region closer to the first inner end of the inner first tube section.

5. The energy management tube defined in claim 4, wherein the plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions comprises at least a first smaller inner tube portion and a second larger inner tube portion, with a slanted portion

extending between the first smaller inner tube portion and the second larger inner tube portion.

6. The energy management tube defined in claim 5, wherein the first smaller inner tube portion includes a plurality of strengthening ribs to provide the first smaller inner tube portion with greater columnar strength than the second larger inner tube portion.

7. The energy management tube defined in claim 4, wherein the plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions each have a hexagonal cross section.

8. The energy management tube defined in claim 1, including a bumper beam attached to a free end of one of the first and second tube sections.

9. The energy management tube defined in claim 1, including a vehicle frame attached to at least one of the first and second tube sections.

10. The energy management tube defined in claim 1 , wherein the first and second tube sections have different geometric cross-sectional shapes.

11. The energy management tube defined in claim 1 , wherein at least one of the first and second tube sections includes a round cross section.

12. An elevator system comprising an elevator shaft having a bottom and the energy management tube defined in claim 1 located therein.

13. A driver protection system comprising a bridge pillar having the energy management tube defined in claim 1 located in front of the bridge pillar.

14. An energy management mat comprising a plurality of energy management tubes defined in claim 1.

15. The energy management tube defined in claim 1, wherein the at least one spanning section is a plate with an opening, the inner second tube section being connected to the plate at a periphery of the opening.

16. The energy management tube defined in claim 15, wherein the opening is circular.

17. A method of making an energy management tube adapted to reliably and predictably absorb substantial impact energy when impacted longitudinally, comprising: forming an outer first tube section and an inner second tube section, with the inner second tube section being at least partially located within the outer first tube section, the outer first tube section being longer than the inner second tube section, the outer first tube section having a stepped outer surface; connecting a first outer end of the outer first tube section to a first inner end of the inner second tube section at least one spanning section with at least one spanning section; crushing the outer first tube section crushing predictably and sooner than the inner second tube section upon the energy management tube receiving forces from a longitudinal impact; creating a first energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section alone; and creating a second energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section and the inner second tube section; wherein the inner first tube section tapers from a larger area at a second inner end to a smaller area at the first inner end.

18. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, wherein the inner first tube section includes a plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions.

19. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, wherein the taper is not constant.

20. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 19, wherein the inner first tube section includes a plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions, each smaller diameter inner first tube portion having a taper from a larger region closer to the second inner end of the inner first tube section to a smaller region closer to the first inner end of the inner first tube section.

21. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 20, wherein the plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions comprises at least a first smaller inner tube portion and a second larger inner tube portion, with a slanted portion extending between the first smaller inner tube portion and the second larger inner tube portion.

22. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 21, wherein the first smaller inner tube portion includes a plurality of strengthening ribs to provide the first smaller inner tube portion with greater columnar strength than the second larger inner tube portion.

23. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 20, wherein the plurality of progressively smaller diameter inner first tube portions each have a hexagonal cross section.

24. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, including a bumper beam attached to a free end of one of the first and second tube sections.

25. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, including a vehicle frame attached to at least one of the first and second tube sections.

26. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, wherein the first and second tube sections have different geometric cross-sectional shapes.

27. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, wherein at least one of the first and second tube sections includes a round cross section.

28. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 17, wherein the at least one spanning section is a plate with an opening, the inner second tube section being connected to the plate at a periphery of the opening.

29. The method of making an energy management tube defined in claim 28, wherein the opening is circular.

Description:

ENERGY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No.

60/751,522 entitled ENERGY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, which was filed December 19, 2005, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/793,069 entitled ENERGY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, which was filed April 19, 2006, the entire contents of both of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to energy-management systems configured to absorb significant impact energy in a consistent and predictable manner during an impact stroke, including energy absorbers made of polymeric materials.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The federal government, insurance companies, and agencies, associations, and companies concerned with vehicle safety have established standardized impact tests that vehicle bumper systems must pass. Bumper mounts and crush towers are commonly used to support bumper bars on vehicle frames and often are used to absorb energy during a vehicle impact. Several characteristics are beneficial for "successful" bumper mounts and crush towers. It is desirable to manufacture bumper mounts and crush towers that provide consistent and predictable impact strength within a known narrow range, so that it is certain that the bumper systems on individual vehicles will all pass testing. This lets manufacturers make a safer vehicle and also lets them more precisely optimize their bumper systems to reduce excess weight and to utilize lower cost materials. More specifically, it is desirable to manufacture bumper mounts and crush towers that provide a consistent force-vs-deflection curve, and to provide a consistent energy absorption-vs-time curve, and to provide a consistent and predictable pattern of collapse. This lets vehicle manufacturers know with certainty how much deflection is created with any given impacting force, and how much energy is absorbed at any point during an impact or vehicle collision. In turn, this allows vehicle manufacturers to design enough room around the bumper system to permit non-damaging impact without wasting space to compensate for product variation and to provide enough support to the bumper system on the vehicle frame. The force-vs-deflection curve has several important ranges at which the crush tower changes from elastic deformation to permanent deformation to total collapse and bottoming out. It is important that these

various points of collapse be predictable to assure that substantial amounts of energy are absorbed before and during collapse, and also to assure that collapse occurs before excessive loads are transferred through the bumper system into the vehicle and its passengers,

[0004] In addition to the above, bumper development programs require long lead times, and it is important that any crush tower be flexible, adaptable, and "tunable" so that it can be modified and tuned with predictability to optimize it on a given vehicle model late in a bumper development program. Also, it is desirable to provide a crush tower design that can be used on different bumper beams and with different bumper systems and vehicle models, despite widely varied vehicle requirements, so that each new bumper system, although new, is not a totally untested and "unknown" system.

[0005] Some tubular crush towers are known for supporting bumper beams in a bumper system. In one type, two stamped half shells are welded together. However, this process generates raw material scrap. Also, the welding process is a secondary operation that adds to manufacturing overhead costs. Further, the welded crush towers are subject to significant product variation and significant variation in product impact strength, force-vs-deflection curves, energy absorption curves, and crush failure points.

[0006] Some crush towers use stronger materials than other crush towers. However, as the strength of a crush tower is increased, there is a tendency to transmit higher and higher loads from the bumper beam directly into the vehicle frame. This is often not desirable. Instead, it is desirable that the tower itself predictably crush and collapse and absorb a maximum of energy over a distributed time period. In particular, crush towers that are very high in strength will tend to transmit undesirably high load spikes from the bumper beam to the vehicle frame. This is often followed by a catastrophic collapse of the crush tower where very little energy is absorbed and where the energy absorption is not consistent or predictable from vehicle to vehicle. Also, it results in premature damage to a vehicle frame. It is particularly important that a crush tower be designed to flex and bend material continuously and predictably over the entire collapsing stroke seen by the crush tower during a vehicle crash. At the same time, a design is desired permitting the use of ultra-high-strength materials, such as high-strength low alloy (HSLA) steels or ultra-high-strength steels which have a very high strength-to-weight ratio. As persons skilled in the art of bumper manufacturing know, the idea of simply making a crush tower out of a stronger material is often a poor idea, and in fact, often it

leads to failure of a bumper system due to transmission of high impact loads and load spikes to the vehicle frame, and also to problems associated with insufficient energy absorption.

[0007] Vehicle frames, like bumper mounts and crush towers, are preferably designed to manage impact energy, both in terms of energy absorption and energy dissipation. This is necessary to minimize damage to vehicle components, and also is necessary to minimize injury to vehicle passengers. Like bumper mounts and crush towers, vehicle frames have long development times, and further, they often require tuning and adjustment late in their development. Vehicle frames (and frame-mounted components) have many of the same concerns as bumper mounts and crush towers, since it is, of course, the vehicle frame that the mounts and crush towers (and other vehicle components) are attached to.

[0008] More broadly, an energy absorption system is desired that is flexible, and able to be used in a wide variety of circumstances and applications. It is preferable that such an energy absorption system be useful both in a bumper system, and also in vehicle frames (longitudinal and cross car), and other applications, as well as in hon- vehicle applications. Notably, it is important to control energy absorption even in components made of polymeric materials. For example, injection molded and thermoformed energy absorbers are often used in vehicle bumper systems, such as by placing the polymeric energy absorber on a face of a tubular metal reinforcement beam. It is also important to control initial energy absorption, especially as bumpers are made to improve pedestrian safety during impact by a vehicle.

[0009] Accordingly, an energy management system is desired solving the aforementioned problems and having the aforementioned advantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] An aspect of the present invention is to provide an energy management tube adapted to reliably and predictably absorb substantial impact energy when impacted longitudinally. The energy management tube comprises an outer first tube section and an inner second tube section, with the inner second tube section being at least partially located within the outer first tube section, and with the outer first tube section having a stepped outer surface. The energy management tube also comprises at least one spanning section connecting a first outer end of the outer first tube section to a first inner end of the inner second tube section. The outer first tube section is longer than

the inner second tube section, whereby, upon undergoing a longitudinal impact, the outer first tube section crushes predictably and sooner than the inner second tube section upon the energy management rube receiving forces from the longitudinal impact, to thereby create a first energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section alone and a second energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section and the inner second tube section. The inner first tube section tapers from a larger area at a second inner end to a smaller area at the first inner end.

[0011] Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method of making an energy management tube adapted to reliably and predictably absorb substantial impact energy when impacted longitudinally. The method comprises forming an outer first tube section and an inner second tube section, with the inner second tube section being at least partially located within the outer first tube section, with the outer first tube section being longer than the inner second tube section, and with the outer first tube section having a stepped outer surface. The method also comprises connecting a first outer end of the outer first tube section to a first inner end of the inner second tube section with at least one spanning section, crushing the outer first tube section predictably and sooner than the inner second tube section upon the energy management tube receiving forces from a longitudinal impact, creating a first energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section alone, and creating a second energy absorption level during crushing of the outer first tube section and the inner second tube section wherein the inner first tube section tapers from a larger area at a second inner end to a smaller area at the first inner end.

[0012] These and other aspects, objects, and features of the present invention will be understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art upon studying the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an energy management tube of the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 A is cross-sectional view of the energy management tube of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 2B is cross-sectional view of the energy management tube of the present invention at a first stage of crushing.

[0016] FIG. 2C is cross-sectional view of the energy management tube of the present invention at a second stage of crushing. [0017] FIG. 2D is cross-sectional view of the energy management tube of the present invention at a third stage of crushing. [0018] FIG. 3 is a graph showing a load v. time (or displacement) chart for the energy management tube of the present invention for the stages of crushing illustrated in FIGS.

2B-2D. [0019] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the energy management tube of the present invention. [0020] FIG. 5 illustrates a first use of the energy management tube of the present invention. [0021] FIG. 6 illustrates a second use of the energy management tube of the present invention. [0022] FIG. 7 illustrates a third use of the energy management tube of the present invention. [0023] FIG. 8 illustrates a fourth use of the energy management tube of the present invention. [0024] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a bumper beam employing the energy management tube of the present invention. [0025] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a bumper beam employing the energy management tube of the present invention. [0026] FIG. 11 is a perspective cut-away view of the second embodiment of the bumper beam employing the energy management tube of the present invention. [0027] FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the second embodiment of the bumper beam employing the energy management tube of the present invention. [0028] FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a headliner employing the energy management tube of the present invention. [0029] FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of the headliner employing the energy management tube of the present invention taken along the line A-A of FIG. 13. 0030] FIG. 15 is a representation of an elevator shaft employing the energy management tube of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0031] For purposes of description herein, the terms "upper," "lower," "right," "left,"

"rear," "front," "vertical," "horizontal," and derivatives thereof shall relate to the invention as orientated in Fig. 1. However, it is to be understood that the invention may assume various alternative orientations, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification are simply exemplary embodiments of the inventive concepts defined in the appended claims. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise. [0032] The reference numeral 10 (FIGS. 1 and 2A) generally designates an embodiment of the present invention, having an energy management tube. The energy management tube 10 includes an outside tube 12 and an inside tube 14. The outside tube 12 has a generally hexagonal cross section and includes a bottom first tube section 16, a middle second tube section 18 and a top third tube section 20. The first tube section 16 is dimensionally larger in size than the second tube section 18, and preferably has a similar cross-sectional shape. Likewise, the second tube section 18 is dimensionally larger in size than the third tube section 20, and preferably has a similar cross-sectional shape. However, while the outside tube 12 is illustrated as having a hexagonal cross-sectional shape, it is noted that the first tube section 16, the second tube section 18 and the third tube section 20 can be different shapes including octagonal, elliptical, race-track shaped, cylindrical, rectangular, square, oval, round, or other geometric shapes. Furthermore, it is contemplated that the tube sections may have different cross-sectional shapes along their lengths, especially at locations where the tube sections must be adapted to connect to different structures, such as vehicle frame components and the like. Moreover, the wall thickness can be varied as needed to satisfy functional design requirements. The energy management tube 10 can also include a metal parts insert molded therein to build reinforcing strength of the energy management tube 10 and/or to assist in assembling the energy management tube 10 to other components. In the illustrated embodiment, the energy management tube is connected to a plate 22 at the first tube section 16. The plate 22 can be welded to portions of a vehicle and/or can be connected to portions of the vehicle by inserting screws into openings 24 in the plate 22.

[0033] As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2A, the energy management tube 10 comprises the first tube section 16 including a first end portion 26 connected to a top of the plate 22 and a second end portion 28 connected to the second tube section 18 by a slanted First step 30. The first tube section 16 tapers slightly inwardly from the first end portion 26 to the second end portion 28. The second tube section 18 includes a first end portion 32 connected to the slanted first step 30 and a second end portion 34 connected to the third tube section 20 by a slanted second step 36. The second tube section 18 tapers slightly inwardly from the first end portion 32 to the second end portion 34. The third tube section 20 includes a first end portion 38 connected to the slanted second step 36 and a second end portion 40 connected to an end hexagonal plate 42. The third tube section 20 tapers slightly inwardly from the first end portion 38 to the second end portion 40. The end hexagonal plate 42 includes a centrally located opening 44, with the inside tube 14 connected to the hexagonal plate 42 at the opening 44. In the illustrated example, the inside tube 14 includes a first tapered portion 50, a second tapered portion 52 and a third tapered portion 54.

[0034] During crushing of the energy management tube 10, the third tube section 20 begins to crush in a corrugated manner as illustrated in FIG. 2B. Thereafter, the third tube section 20 will continue to crush and the second tube section 18 will crush in a corrugated manner. Finally, the inside tube 14 will abut against a face of the member that the plate 22 is connected to and will begin to crush along with the first tube section 16. FIG. 3 shows a load v. time (or displacement) chart for the energy management tube of the present invention for the stages of crushing illustrated in FIGS. 2B-2D.

[0035] Applications of energy management tubes include stand alone crushable structures and/or crushable features incorporated into larger parts. The size of the parts can be formed to any size desired and the combination of multiple energy management tubes can be formed to work in either parallel, series or configured to encompass a large surface area. A single energy management tube 10 can be used as a knee bolster 200 in vehicles in front of the driver's knee 202 (FIG. 5), as a crushable member in front of another structure such as an energy management tube 10 in front of a beam 209 of a bumper system 210 and behind facia 212 (FIG. 6), as a bumper bracket between a support frame 220 of a vehicle and a beam 209 of a bumper system 210, as an inside component to A and B pillars of a vehicle, and as a highway embankment to protect supports 240 for a bridge 242 (FIG. 8) or in other manners. Furthermore, a grouping

of energy management tubes can be used across a face of a bumper 300 (see FIG. 9) as an energy absorber or within a beam 400 (see FIGS. 10-12) (e.g. , the beam disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2005/0213478 entitled ENERGY MANAGEMENT BEAM, the entire contents of which are herein incorporated herein by reference), or used within a headliner of a vehicle for head protection as shown in FIGS. 13 and 14. Furthermore, the energy management tube can be used in a bottom of an elevator shaft 500 to absorb energy of a dropping elevator 502 as illustrated in FIG. 15. Basically, anywhere that energy absorption is needed either as a stand alone structure or for larger areas where an area is required to provide energy absorption, the energy management tube technology can be used. Furthermore, more complex structures that include internal stiffening ribs and vanes may require a die that incorporates action. Changes in thickness can be used to provide column strength and desired rolling loads. Energy management tubes can also be molded or formed within and nested within other energy management tubes to create additional load tuning capability. The reference numeral 10a (FIG. 4) generally designates another embodiment of the present invention, having a second embodiment for the energy management tube. Since energy management tube 10a is similar to the previously described energy management tube 10, similar parts appearing in FIGS. 1-2D and FIG. 4, respectively, are represented by the same, corresponding reference number, except for the suffix "a" in the numerals of the latter. The energy management tube 10a is identical to the previously described energy management tube 10, except that second embodiment of the energy management tube includes a plurality of fins 100 on each side of the polygon of the first tube section 16a. The fins 100 assist in ensuring that the first tube section 16a of the energy management tube 10a crush after the second tube section 18a and the third tube section 20a. Furthermore, the fins 100 add extra crush resistance. While three fins 100 are illustrated as being located on each side of the polygon of the first rube section 16a, it is contemplated that any number of fins 100 (including only one) could be used on the first tube section 16a or each side of the polygon of the first tube section 16a. Furthermore, it is contemplated that the second tube section 18a and/or the third tube section 10a could include fins 100, either along with the fins on the first tube section 16a or as an alternative thereto.

It is to be understood that variations and modifications can be made on the aforementioned structure without departing from the concepts of the present invention, and further it is to be understood that such concepts are intended to be covered by the following claims unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise.