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Title:
DAMPER ASSEMBLY FOR ROTATABLY COUPLED COMPONENTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/204297
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
Damper assembly is provided that includes a damper housing and a rotor operably coupled to the damper housing. At least one of the rotor or the damper housing is operable to rotate about a central axis. The damper assembly also includes an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis. The rotor is attached to the elastic shaft at a distal cross-section along the central axis and attached to the damper housing at a proximal cross-section along the central axis. The elastic shaft has a dampening portion between the proximal and distal cross-sections. The dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross-section, wherein the dampening portion twists about the central axis. The dampening portion provides an opposing force that resists movement from a first rotational orientation to a second rotational orientation.

Inventors:
CHOW HIN (US)
TYLER MICHAEL (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2018/030342
Publication Date:
November 08, 2018
Filing Date:
May 01, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS (US)
International Classes:
F16F15/14; B60R7/06; E05D11/10; E05F1/12; F16F1/16; F16F1/373; F16F1/38
Foreign References:
US4709796A1987-12-01
US4322062A1982-03-30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GROSS, Jason, P. (225 S. Meramec Suite 72, St. Louis MO, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A damper assembly comprising: a damper housing; a rotor operably coupled to the damper housing, at least one of the rotor or the damper housing operable to rotate about a central axis; and an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis, the rotor being attached to the elastic shaft at a distal cross-section along the central axis and attached to the damper housing at a proximal cross-section along the central axis, the elastic shaft having a dampening portion between the proximal and distal cross-sections, the dampening portion configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross- section, wherein the dampening portion twists about the central axis, the dampening portion providing an opposing force that resists movement from a first rotational orientation to a second rotational orientation.

2. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein the dampening portion provides an additive force that reduces work for moving the elastic shaft from the second rotational orientation to the first rotational orientation.

3. The damper assembly of claim 2, wherein the elastic shaft includes a tube having a shaft passage that is sized and shaped to receive an axle, the central axis extending parallel to and through the shaft passage.

4. The damper assembly of claim 3, wherein the tube has an essentially uniform wall thickness along the dampening portion.

5. The damper assembly of claim 3, wherein the damper housing engages the tube at opposite points across the central axis.

6. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein the dampening portion has a length measured along the central axis between the proximal and distal cross-sections and a greatest cross-sectional dimension taken perpendicular to the central axis, the length being greater than the greatest cross-sectional dimension.

7. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein the rotor has a rotor cavity, the rotor cavity and the elastic shaft being coaxial with one another and wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

8. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein the elastic shaft comprises an elastomer.

9. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein a contoured interface is formed between two of the damper housing, rotor, or elastic shaft, the contoured interface being shaped to compress the elastic shaft along the central axis, thereby increasing a magnitude of the opposing force.

10. The damper assembly of claim 1, wherein the damper housing includes an open-sided cavity that is sized and shaped to receive at least one of the rotor or the elastic shaft.

11. A vehicle sub-system comprising: a control panel including a compartment; an access door that is operable to rotate from a closed position to an opened position to allow user access to the compartment; and a damper assembly comprising: a damper housing; a rotor operably coupled to the damper housing, at least one of the rotor or the damper housing operable to rotate about a central axis; and an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis, the elastic shaft being attached to the rotor at a distal cross-section along the central axis and attached to the damper housing at a proximal cross-section along the central axis, the elastic shaft having a dampening portion between the proximal and distal cross-sections, the dampening portion configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross-section, wherein the dampening portion twists about the central axis, the dampening portion providing an opposing force that resists movement from the closed position to the opened position.

12. The vehicle sub-system of claim 11, wherein the dampening portion provides an additive force that reduces work for moving the access door from the opened position to the closed position.

13. The vehicle sub-system of claim 12, wherein the elastic shaft includes a tube having a shaft passage.

14. The vehicle sub-system of claim 13, wherein the tube has an essentially uniform wall thickness along the dampening portion.

15. The vehicle sub-system of claim 11, wherein the rotor has a rotor cavity, the rotor cavity and the elastic shaft being coaxial with one another and wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

16. The vehicle sub-system of claim 11, wherein a contoured interface is formed between two of the damper housing, rotor, or elastic shaft, the contoured interface being shaped to compress the elastic shaft along the central axis, thereby increasing a magnitude of the opposing force.

17. The vehicle sub-system of claim 11, wherein the damper housing includes an open-sided cavity that is sized and shaped to receive at least one of the rotor or the elastic shaft.

18. A method compri sing : attaching a rotor to an elastic shaft at a distal cross-section of the elastic shaft; attaching a damper housing to the elastic shaft at a proximal cross-section of the elastic shaft, wherein the rotor and the damper housing form a damper assembly when attached to the elastic shaft at the distal and proximal cross-sections, respectively, the elastic shaft having a dampening portion extending between the proximal and distal cross-sections, the dampening portion configured to twist about a central axis when the rotor rotates relative to the damper housing between first and second rotational orientations, the dampening portion providing an opposing force that impedes movement from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation; and coupling a control panel and an access door to the damper assembly.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the damper housing includes an open- sided cavity, the method further comprising inserting the rotor and the elastic shaft through the open-sided cavity.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein the rotor has a rotor cavity, the rotor cavity and the elastic shaft being coaxial with one another and wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

21. A vehicle sub-system comprising: a control panel including a compartment; an access door that is operable to rotate about a central axis, the access door operable to rotate from a closed position to an opened position to allow access to the compartment; and an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis between a first shaft end and a second shaft end, the elastic shaft including a dampening portion that is operable to twist about the central axis, the dampening portion extending between the first and second shaft ends and comprising an elastic material; wherein the elastic shaft is secured to the control panel and secured to the access door, the dampening portion configured to yield to a designated torque applied by the access door as the access door moves away from the closed position, the dampening portion providing an opposing force that resists movement of the access door from the closed position to the opened position.

22. The vehicle sub-system of claim 21, wherein the elastic shaft is bar-bell shaped.

23. The vehicle sub-system of claim 21, wherein the elastic shaft has a first end section that includes the first shaft end and has a first outer diameter, the elastic shaft also having a second end section that includes the second shaft end and has a second outer diameter, the dampening portion having a third outer diameter that is less than the first outer diameter and less than the second outer diameter.

24. The vehicle sub-system of claim 21, wherein the dampening portion is tubular having a passage extending therethrough.

25. The vehicle sub-system of claim 21, wherein the dampening portion is devoid of a passage extending along the central axis between the first and second shaft ends.

26. The vehicle sub-system of claim 21, wherein the elastic shaft has a first end section that includes the first shaft end, the elastic shaft also having a second end section that includes the second shaft end, at least one of the first and second end sections having a grip opening that receives a post.

27. A method comprising: attaching a control panel of a vehicle sub-system to a proximal cross-section of an elastic shaft; and attaching an access door of the vehicle sub-system to a distal cross-section of the elastic shaft; wherein the elastic shaft extends lengthwise along a central axis between a first shaft end and a second shaft end, the elastic shaft including a dampening portion that is operable to twist about the central axis, the dampening portion extending between the first and second shaft ends and comprising an elastic material; wherein the dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied by the access door as the access door moves away from a closed position, the dampening portion providing an opposing force that resists movement of the access door from the closed position to an opened position.

28. The method of claim 27, wherein the elastic shaft has a first end section that includes the first shaft end and has a first outer diameter, the elastic shaft also having a second end section that includes the second shaft end and has a second outer diameter, the dampening portion having a third outer diameter that is less than the first outer diameter and less than the second outer diameter.

Description:
DAMPER ASSEMBLY FOR ROTATABLY COUPLED COMPONENTS

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims priority to from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/501,450 (Docket No. 67274-P1), entitled "Torsion Hinge Damper Assembly," filed on May 4, 2017, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0002] Embodiments of the present disclosure generally relate to a damper assembly that controls rotational movement of one component relative to another component.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Various systems/device use a damper assembly to control the relative movement between two connected components. For example, a compartment may be accessed through a door that is connected to a frame through a hinge. The door may be configured to rotate between a closed position and an opened position. The damper assembly protects the door, frame, and/or hinge by restraining rotation of the door away from the closed position so that impact between the door and frame does not cause damage or excessive wear.

[0004] Conventional damper assemblies, such as dashpots or shock absorbers, use a fluid media and/or springs to dampen movement. For such assemblies, it is often necessary to provide two separate damp mechanisms. For example, a first damping mechanism may impede movement in a first direction, but a second damping mechanism may be necessary to impede movement in an opposite second direction. The second damping mechanism can require additional parts, but the parts can be costly and occupy more space that might otherwise be used for another purpose. [0005] In addition, conventional damper assemblies are often spaced away from the axis of rotation to increase leverage. With respect to this spacing, however, there is a trade-off between the size of the damper assembly and the torque that the damper assembly provides. As the damper assembly is positioned further from the axis of rotation to increase leverage, the damper assembly increases in total size, thereby occupying more space. As the damper assembly is positioned closer to the axis of rotation, the damper assembly loses leverage and it becomes more difficult to generate a high resistant torque.

[0006] Other damper assemblies may utilize friction at an interface between the two components that move relative to each other. The friction at the interface slows movement of one component relative to the other. The friction, however, generates thermal energy at the interface that can cause wear or even damage if the damper assembly is repeatedly used.

[0007] United States Patent No. 4,709,796 discloses a torsion rubber type damper disc. United States Patent No. 4,322,062 discloses a torsion spring damper.

SUMMARY OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0008] In at least one embodiment, a damper assembly is provided that includes a damper housing and a rotor operably coupled to the damper housing. At least one of the rotor or the damper housing is operable to rotate about a central axis. The damper assembly also includes an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis. The rotor is attached to the elastic shaft at a distal cross-section along the central axis and attached to the damper housing at a proximal cross-section along the central axis. The elastic shaft has a dampening portion between the proximal and distal cross- sections. The dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross-section, wherein the dampening portion twists about the central axis. The dampening portion provides an opposing force that resists movement from a first rotational orientation to a second rotational orientation. [0009] In some aspects, the dampening portion provides an additive force that reduces work for moving the elastic shaft from the second rotational orientation to the first rotational orientation. Optionally, the elastic shaft includes a tube having a shaft passage that is sized and shaped to receive an axle. The central axis extends parallel to and through the shaft passage. As such, the axle may coincide with the central axis when inserted into the shaft passage.

[0010] In some aspects, the tube has an essentially uniform wall thickness along the dampening portion. In some aspects, the damper housing engages the tube at opposite points across the central axis.

[0011] In some aspects, the dampening portion has a length measured along the central axis between the proximal and distal cross-sections and a greatest cross- sectional dimension taken perpendicular to the central axis. The length is greater than the greatest cross-sectional dimension.

[0012] In some aspects, the rotor has a rotor cavity. The rotor cavity and the elastic shaft are coaxial with one another, wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

[0013] In some aspects, the elastic shaft comprises an elastomer.

[0014] In some aspects, a contoured interface is formed between two of the damper housing, rotor, or elastic shaft. The contoured interface is shaped to compress the elastic shaft along the central axis, thereby increasing a magnitude of the opposing force.

[0015] In some aspects, the damper housing includes an open-sided cavity that is sized and shaped to receive at least one of the rotor or the elastic shaft. Optionally, the rotor and the elastic shaft may be coupled to each other to form a rotor sub-assembly. The rotor sub-assembly may be inserted as a unit into the open-sided cavity.

[0016] In at least one embodiment, a vehicle sub-system is provided. The vehicle sub-system includes a control panel having a compartment and an access door that is operable to rotate from a closed position to an opened position to allow user access to the compartment. The vehicle sub-system also includes a damper assembly that includes a damper housing and a rotor operably coupled to the damper housing. At least one of the rotor or the damper housing is operable to rotate about a central axis. The damper assembly also includes an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis. The elastic shaft is attached to the rotor at a distal cross-section along the central axis and attached to the damper housing at a proximal cross-section along the central axis. The elastic shaft has a dampening portion between the proximal and distal cross- sections. The dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross-section, wherein the dampening portion twists about the central axis. The dampening portion providing an opposing force that resists movement from the closed position to the opened position.

[0017] In some aspects, the dampening portion provides an additive force that reduces work for moving the access door from the opened position to the closed position.

[0018] In some aspects, the elastic shaft includes a tube having a shaft passage. Optionally, the tube has an essentially uniform wall thickness along the dampening portion.

[0019] In some aspects, the rotor has a rotor cavity. The rotor cavity and the elastic shaft are coaxial with one another, wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

[0020] In some aspects, a contoured interface is formed between two of the damper housing, rotor, or elastic shaft. The contoured interface is shaped to compress the elastic shaft along the central axis, thereby increasing a magnitude of the opposing force.

[0021] In some aspects, the damper housing includes an open-sided cavity that is sized and shaped to receive at least one of the rotor or the elastic shaft.

[0022] In at least one embodiment, a method is provided that includes attaching a rotor to an elastic shaft at a distal cross-section of the elastic shaft. The method also includes attaching a damper housing to the elastic shaft at a proximal cross- section of the elastic shaft. The rotor and the damper housing form a damper assembly when attached to the elastic shaft at the distal and proximal cross-sections, respectively. The elastic shaft has a dampening portion that extends between the proximal and distal cross-sections. The dampening portion is configured to twist about a central axis when the rotor rotates relative to the damper housing between first and second rotational orientations. The dampening portion provides an opposing force that impedes movement from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation. The method also includes coupling a control panel and an access door to the damper assembly.

[0023] In some aspects, the damper housing includes an open-sided cavity. The method may further comprise inserting the rotor and the elastic shaft through the open-sided cavity.

[0024] In some aspects, the rotor has a rotor cavity. The rotor cavity and the elastic shaft are coaxial with one another, wherein: (a) the rotor is a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft or (b) the elastic shaft is a sleeve that surrounds the rotor.

[0025] In at least one embodiment, a vehicle sub-system is provided that includes a control panel including a compartment. The vehicle sub-system also includes an access door that is operable to rotate about a central axis. The access door is operable to rotate from a closed position to an opened position to allow access to the compartment. The vehicle sub-system also includes an elastic shaft extending lengthwise along the central axis between a first shaft end and a second shaft end. The elastic shaft includes a dampening portion that is operable to twist about the central axis. The dampening portion extends between the first and second shaft ends and includes an elastic material. The elastic shaft is secured to the control panel and secured to the access door. The dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied by the access door as the access door moves away from the closed position. The dampening portion provides an opposing force that resists movement of the access door from the closed position to the opened position.

[0026] In some aspects, the elastic shaft is bar-bell shaped. [0027] In some aspects, the elastic shaft has a first end section that includes the first shaft end and has a first outer diameter. The elastic shaft also has a second end section that includes the second shaft end and has a second outer diameter. The dampening portion has a third outer diameter that is less than the first outer diameter and less than the second outer diameter.

[0028] In some aspects, the dampening portion is tubular having a passage extending therethrough.

[0029] In some aspects, the dampening portion is devoid of a passage extending along the central axis between the first and second shaft ends.

[0030] In some aspects, the elastic shaft has a first end section that includes the first shaft end. The elastic shaft also has a second end section that includes the second shaft end. At least one of the first and second end sections has a grip opening that receives a post.

[0031] In at least one embodiment, a method is provided that includes attaching a control panel of a vehicle sub-system to a proximal cross-section of an elastic shaft. The method also includes attaching an access door of the vehicle sub-system to a distal cross-section of the elastic shaft. The elastic shaft extends lengthwise along a central axis between a first shaft end and a second shaft end. The elastic shaft includes a dampening portion that is operable to twist about the central axis. The dampening portion extends between the first and second shaft ends and includes an elastic material. The dampening portion is configured to yield to a designated torque applied by the access door as the access door moves away from a closed position. The dampening portion provides an opposing force that resists movement of the access door from the closed position to an opened position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0032] Figure 1 is a schematic side cross-sectional view of a mechanical system including a damper assembly formed in accordance with an embodiment. [0033] Figure 2 is an isolated perspective view of an elastic shaft that may be used in a damper assembly in accordance with an embodiment.

[0034] Figure 3 is an enlarged view of the damper assembly in Figure 1.

[0035] Figure 4 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a damper assembly formed in accordance with an embodiment when a rotor sub-assembly is poised for disposing within a damper housing.

[0036] Figure 5 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the damper assembly of Figure 4 taken perpendicular to a central axis.

[0037] Figure 6 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a mechanical system that includes the damper assembly of Figure 4.

[0038] Figure 7 is a graph illustrating a mechanical behavior of an elastic shaft in accordance with an embodiment.

[0039] Figure 8 is a perspective view of a damper assembly in accordance with an embodiment.

[0040] Figure 9 is a side view of the damper assembly of Figure 8.

[0041] Figure 10 is an end view of the damper assembly of Figure 8 when the damper assembly is in a first operating condition.

[0042] Figure 11 is an end view of the damper assembly of Figure 8 when the damper assembly is in a second operating condition.

[0043] Figure 12 is a perspective view of a damper assembly in accordance with an embodiment.

[0044] Figure 13 is a side view of the damper assembly of Figure 12.

[0045] Figure 14 is a cross-section of the damper assembly of Figure 12 when the damper assembly is in the first operating condition.

[0046] Figure 15 is an end view of the damper assembly of Figure 12 illustrating the damper assembly in a first operating condition and also indicating a position of a rotor (by dashed line) when the damper assembly is in a second operating condition.

[0047] Figure 16 is a table providing mechanical properties of material that may be used to form the elastic shaft.

[0048] Figure 17 is another table providing mechanical properties of material that may be used to form the elastic shaft.

[0049] Figure 18 is a side view of an elastic shaft formed in accordance with an embodiment.

[0050] Figure 19 is a schematic view of a vehicle sub-system formed in accordance with an embodiment that uses the elastic shaft of Figure 18.

[0051] Figure 20 is a schematic view of the vehicle sub-system of Figure 19 illustrating an interface between a control panel and an access door.

[0052] Figure 21 is perspective view of an elastic shaft formed in accordance with an embodiment.

[0053] Figure 22 is an end view of an elastic shaft formed in accordance with an embodiment.

[0054] Before the embodiments of the disclosure are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the disclosure is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The disclosure is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of "including" and "comprising" and variations thereof is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items and equivalents thereof. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0055] Embodiments of the present disclosure include damper assemblies, systems or apparatuses having a damper assembly (e.g., mechanical system, vehicle subsystem, etc.), methods of making the damper assembly or the system, and methods of using the damper assembly. The damper assembly may control (e.g., affect) how rotatably-connected components move relative to one another. For example, embodiments may control rotational movement between two components that are rotatably connected by a hinge or hinge-like assembly. The damper assembly may form part of the hinge. For example, the damper assembly may rotate about a central axis that coincides with an axis of rotation of the hinge.

[0056] The damper assembly may be configured to counter a constant force, such as gravity, and/or counter a variable force, such as a spring force. In particular embodiments, the damper assembly controls movement of an access door for a glove compartment (or glove box) in vehicles. However, the damper assembly may be used to rotatably couple other components.

[0057] The damper assembly includes an elastic shaft. In at least one embodiment, the elastic shaft is a torsion tube that is configured to be twisted about an axis. The elastic shaft (or torsion tube) may be formed an elastic material. In particular embodiments, the elastic shaft may be formed from an elastomeric material. For example, the elastic shaft may comprise or consist essentially of a thermoplastic polyester elastomer. Examples of materials that may be used include DuPont™ Hytrel® 6356, DuPont™ Hytrel® 5556, DuPont™ Hytrel® 4556, and DuPont™ Hytrel® 4056. Figures 16 and 17 include respective tables that provide values for certain mechanical properties. These values, however, are provided only as examples and embodiments may use material having different mechanical properties. For instance, for mechanical properties that are listed in both tables, the material of the elastic shaft may have a range between the two values. For example, a stress at 50% strain may be between 8.4 and 18.8 MPa, a flexural modulus may be between 60 and 290 MPa, a tensile modulus may be between 60 and 280 MPa, and Poisson's ratio may be between 0.48 and 0.5. [0058] It should be understood, however, that other types of elastic materials, varieties thereof, and/or a combination of materials may be used that exhibit sufficient properties for functioning as described herein.

[0059] Embodiments of the present disclosure may be smaller than conventional damper assemblies, thereby increasing available space that may be used for another purpose. For at least one embodiment, the hinge damper assembly may simplify construction. For at least one embodiment, the hinge damper assembly may use fewer parts than other known damper assemblies. For at least one embodiment, the hinge damper assembly may reduce assembly time. For at least one embodiment, the hinge damper assembly may use fewer discrete elements. Embodiments may provide each and every one of the above listed features or provide fewer features.

[0060] In particular embodiments, the rotatably-coupled components include an access door and a control panel or, more specifically, a bracket of the control panel. The access door provides access to a compartment (e.g., glove compartment) of a vehicle when the access door is rotated from a closed position to an opened position.

[0061] Figure 1 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a mechanical system 100 that includes a damper assembly 104. The damper assembly 104 includes a first housing part 106, a second housing part 108, and an elastic shaft 110. The first and second housing parts 106, 108 are configured to rotate relative to one another. The elastic shaft 110 is attached to each of the first and second housing parts 106, 108 and is configured to twist about a central axis 190 when the first and second housing parts 106, 108 are rotated relative to one another. The elastic shaft 110 is configured to control (or affect) the relative movement between the first and second housing parts 106, 108 by providing an opposing force when the first and second housing parts 106, 108 move relative to one another in one manner and by providing an additive force when the first and second housing parts 106, 108 move relative to one another in an opposite manner.

[0062] The first housing part 106 is hereinafter referred to as a damper housing 106 and is configured to couple to a movable component 112. The second housing part 108 is hereinafter referred to as a rotor 108 and is configured to couple to a support structure 114. The damper assembly 104, the movable component 112, and the support structure 114 collectively form the mechanical system 100. In particular embodiments, the rotor 108 and the damper housing 106 are discrete components that are independent of the larger components, such as the access door and the control panel. In other embodiments, however, the damper housing 106 forms a portion of a control panel or an access door. The rotor 108 may also form a portion of a control panel or an access door.

[0063] In the illustrated embodiment, the movable component 112 is a door or hatch 112 and the support structure 114 is a panel. The mechanical system 100 may be a sub-system of a larger system. In some embodiments, the mechanical system 100 is a control panel and the movable component 112 is a door or hatch to a compartment. In particular embodiments, the mechanical system 100 is an instrument panel (e.g., dashboard) and the movable component 112 is a door or hatch to a glove compartment. It should be understood, however, that the movable component 112 and the support structure 114 may be any physical objects that rotatably couple to one another in a hingelike manner.

[0064] The following describes the damper housing 106 as attaching to the door 112 and the rotor 108 as attaching to the panel 114. In other embodiments, the damper housing 106 attaches to the panel 114and the rotor 108 attaches to the door 112.

[0065] The damper assembly 104 has an axle passage 116 extending entirely therethrough. The axle passage 116 is sized and shaped tor receive an axle 118 (shown in dashed lines) therethrough. The axle passage 116 and the axle 118 coincide with a central axis 190. The central axis 190 may also represent an axis of rotation for the damper assembly 104. The axle 118 may extend, for example, along an interface between the door 112 and the panel 114 and extend through hinge elements (not shown) of the door 112 and the panel 114. In other embodiments, however, the mechanical system 100 does not utilize an axle. In such embodiments, the damper housing 106, the rotor 108, and/or the elastic shaft 110 may align with and secure to post or holes (not shown) of the panel 114 and form an axle-like mechanical interaction with the panel 114. [0066] The damper housing 106 is configured to attach to the elastic shaft 110 at a proximal cross-section 120 along the central axis 190, which may also be referred to as a first cross-section. The damper housing 106 includes an outer surface 122 and an inner surface 124 that defines a housing cavity 126. The damper housing 106 has a first axial end 130 and a second axial end 132. A housing length 134 is defined between the first and second axial ends 130, 132. Optionally, the damper housing 106 may include a key feature 136 (in phantom) that is configured to engage the door 112. In the illustrated embodiment, the key feature 136 is a projection (e.g., rib) that is inserted into a corresponding slot 138 of the door 112. In other embodiments, however, the key feature 136 may be an opening that receives a corresponding projection from the door 112.

[0067] The rotor 108 is configured to rotate about the central axis 190 and move relative to the damper housing 106. The rotor 108 is configured to attach to the elastic shaft 110 at a distal cross-section 140 along the central axis 190, which may also be referred to as a second cross-section. The rotor 108 includes an outer surface 142 and an inner surface 144 that defines a rotor cavity 146. The rotor cavity 146 may form at least a portion of the axle passage 116. The rotor 108 has a first axial end 150 and a second axial end 152. A rotor length 154 is defined between the first and second axial ends 150, 152. Optionally, the rotor 108 may include one or more key features 156 that are configured to engage the panel 114. In the illustrated embodiment, the key features 156 are projections (e.g., ribs) that are inserted into corresponding slots 158 of the panel 114. In other embodiments, however, the key feature 156 may be an opening that receives a corresponding projection from the panel 114.

[0068] In the illustrated embodiment, the damper assembly 104 has a telescopic or nested configuration in which the three components are coaxial with respect to the central axis 190 and the components are partially received within one another. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, the rotor 108 is disposed within a shaft passage or cavity 160 of the elastic shaft 110. The elastic shaft 110 (in addition to the rotor 108) is disposed within the housing cavity 126. The elastic shaft 110 may function as a sleeve that surrounds the rotor 108, and the damper housing 106 may function as a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft 110 and the rotor 108. In other embodiments, the rotor 108 may function as a sleeve that surrounds the elastic shaft 110.

[0069] The elastic shaft 110 has an outer surface 162 and an inner surface 164. The outer surface 162 of the elastic shaft 110 and the inner surface 124 of the damper housing 106 abut each other along an interface. The inner surface 164 of the elastic shaft 110 and the outer surface 142 of the rotor 108 abut each other along an interface.

[0070] As described above, the elastic shaft 110 is attached to the rotor 108 at a distal cross-section 140 and attached to the damper housing 106 at a proximal cross- section 120. The elastic shaft 110 has a dampening portion 180 that extends between the proximal and distal cross-sections 120, 140. As described herein, the dampening portion 180 twists about the central axis 190 when the rotor 108 rotates relative to the damper housing 106 between first and second rotational orientations. The dampening portion 180 provides an opposing force that impedes movement from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation.

[0071] Figure 2 is an isolated perspective view of an elastic shaft 202 that may be used in a damper assembly. For example, the elastic shaft 202 may be similar or identical to the elastic shaft 110 (Figure 1) in the damper assembly 104 (Figure 1). The elastic shaft 202 has an outer surface 204 and an inner surface 206. The inner surface 206 defines a shaft passage 208. The elastic shaft 202 includes opposite first and second shaft ends 210, 212.

[0072] The damper housing and the rotor are configured to couple to the elastic shaft 202. When the rotor and/or the damper housing are rotated, a dampening portion 220 of the elastic shaft 202 is twisted about a central axis 290. When the dampening portion 220 twists from a relaxed or non-twisted condition toward a twisted condition, the dampening portion 220 impedes rotation. The resistance is a function of the shear strain and stress forces provided in the dampening portion 220 and may be characterized as an opposing force. When the dampening portion 220 twists from a twisted condition toward the relaxed or non-twisted condition, the dampening portion 220 facilitates rotation. The dampening portion 180 (Figure 1) may have a mechanical behavior that is similar or identical to the dampening portion 220.

[0073] Dimensions of the elastic shaft 202 (e.g., length, diameter (or width), and the like), a shape of the elastic shaft 202 (e.g., cylinder, tube, cross-sectional profile) and material properties of the elastic shaft 202 may determine how the elastic shaft 202 responds to torque. More specifically, dimensions, shape, and material properties of the elastic shaft 202 may determine a mechanical behavior of the elastic shaft 202 as the elastic shaft 202 is being twisted.

[0074] As one example, the elastic shaft 202 may be in a relaxed condition (or more relaxed condition) when the door is closed. The door may be unlatched and an opening stroke moves the door from the closed position to an opened position to allow a user access to the compartment. As the door rotates during the opening stroke, the elastic shaft 202 impedes rotation. In other words, the elastic shaft 202 permits the door to be opened, but provides an opposing force that slows the door compared to a speed of the door without the opposing force. In the case where gravity alone can open the door after unlatching, the elastic shaft 202 decreases the angular velocity as the door approaches a fully opened position. The opposing force may increase as the elastic shaft becomes more twisted.

[0075] Figure 7 illustrates a force-twist relationship. In some embodiments, the elastic shaft may exhibit a hysteretic behavior. The elastic shaft may dissipate potential energy to some extent to soften movement of both opening and closing stroke.

[0076] Returning to Figure 2, the elastic shaft 202 includes grip openings 214, 215 at the first shaft end 210 and at least one grip opening 216 at the second shaft end 212. In the illustrated embodiment, the grip openings 214, 215 open toward the first shaft end 210 and are sized and shaped to receive torque features of the rotor (or the damper housing as the case may be). The grip openings 214, 215 also open in a radially outward direction. In a similar manner, the grip opening 216 opens toward the second shaft end 212. [0077] The grip openings 214-216 are essentially open-sided channels (or slots). In other embodiments, however, the grip openings may not be accessible through an end of the elastic shaft. For example, the grip openings may be holes that extend radially-outward. The holes may be configured to receive a post inserted radially inward toward the central axis. Yet in other embodiments, the elastic shaft may have radially- extending projections that are received by grip openings of the rotor (or the damper housing as the case may be).

[0078] The grip openings 214, 215 align with each other across the central axis 290 of the elastic shaft 202. In a similar manner, the grip opening 2016 at the second shaft end 212 may align with an opposing grip opening. The grip openings 214, 215, 216 are configured to receive one or more torque features of the rotor and torque features of the damper housing.

[0079] When the rotor and/or the damper housing is rotated about the central axis 290, the torque features apply a torque to the elastic shaft 202. The moment (or applied torque) may be experienced at designated cross-sections that are transverse to the central axis 290. These designated cross-sections may be represented by planes (identified by dashed lines 291, 292 in Figure 2) that intersect the elastic shaft 202 extend perpendicular to the central axis 290. The dampening portion 220 is the portion of the elastic shaft 202 that twists about the central axis 290 and is defined between the designated cross-sections 291, 292.

[0080] Figure 3 is an enlarged view of the damper assembly 104. Similar to the elastic shaft 202 (Figure 2), the elastic shaft 110 includes grip openings 181, 182 at a first shaft end 183 and grip openings 184, 185 at a second shaft end 186. The grip openings 181, 182 open toward the first shaft end 183. The grip openings 184, 185 open toward the second shaft end 186.

[0081] The rotor 108 includes torque features 187, 188 that project radially outward, and the damper housing 106 includes torque features 192, 191 that project radially inward. The torque features may be projections (e.g., ribs). The torque features 187, 188 are received within the grip openings 181, 182, respectively, and the torque features 192, 191 are received within the grip openings 184, 185, respectively. When the rotor 108 and/or the damper housing 106 is rotated, surfaces that define the corresponding grip openings engage the torque features. As described herein, the dampening portion 180 permits but resists rotation about the central axis 190. The dampening portion 180 is defined between the designated cross-sections 120, 140.

[0082] During rotation, the inner and outer surfaces of the damper housing 106, the rotor 108, and the elastic shaft 110 move relative to one another at respective interfaces. For example, the outer surface 162 of the elastic shaft 110 and the inner surface 124 of the damper housing 106 abut each other along an interface. The inner surface 164 of the elastic shaft 110 and the outer surface 142 of the rotor 108 abut each other along an interface. These interfaces may or may not generate friction during rotation. In some embodiments, any friction generated is negligible and/or any forces generated by friction are small compared to the forces generated by the dampening portion 180.

[0083] Figures 4-6 illustrate a damper assembly 302 that utilizes a clamp configuration. As shown in Figures 4 and 5, the damper assembly 302 includes a damper housing 306 and a rotor 308 that is operably coupled to the damper housing 306. The damper assembly 302 also includes an elastic shaft 310 that extends lengthwise along the central axis 390. The rotor 308 is configured to rotate about a central axis 390 (Figure 5) and move relative to the damper housing 306. This may also be described as the damper housing 306 being configured to rotate relative to the rotor 308.

[0084] As shown, the damper housing 306 includes an open-sided cavity 326 that is sized and shaped to receive at least one of the rotor or the elastic shaft. In the illustrated embodiment, the rotor 308 and the elastic shaft 310 couple to one another to form a rotor sub-assembly 307. The elastic shaft 310 may telescopically slide into the rotor 308 as described above. The rotor sub-assembly 308 may then be laterally inserted into a C-shaped damper housing 306. More specifically, the rotor sub-assembly 307 may be disposed as unit through the open-sided cavity 326. An opening to the open-sided cavity 326 is defined between opposing clips 325 (e.g., T-shaped clips). As the rotor subassembly 307 is advanced into the open-sided cavity 326, the rotor sub-assembly 307 deflects the clips 325. The clips 325 are shaped to permit deflection and then, after the rotor sub-assembly 307 clears the clips, snap back into an undeflected state. The clips are shaped to retain the rotor sub-assembly 308 within the open-sided cavity 326.

[0085] With respect to Figure 5, the elastic shaft 310 is attached to the rotor 308 at a distal cross-section 320 along the central axis 390 and attached to the damper housing 306 at a proximal cross-section 340 along the central axis 390. The elastic shaft 310 has a dampening portion 380 extending between the proximal and distal cross- sections 320, 340. The dampening portion 380 is configured to twist about the central axis 390 when the rotor 308 rotates relative to the damper housing 306 between first and second rotational orientations. The dampening portion 380 provides an opposing force that impedes movement from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation. The dampening portion 380, however, also provides an additive force that reduces work for moving from the second rotational orientation to the first rotational orientation.

[0086] In the illustrated embodiment, the elastic shaft 310 includes a tube having shaft passage 360 that is sized and shaped to receive an axle 318. The central axis 390 extends parallel to and through the shaft passage 360. The tube has an essentially uniform wall thickness 394 along the dampening portion 380. Similar to the damper housing 106 (Figure 1), the damper housing 306 engages the tube at opposite points across the central axis 390. Similar to the dampening portion 180 (Figure 1), the dampening portion 380 has a length 396 measured along the central axis between the proximal and distal cross-sections 340, 320 and a greatest cross-sectional dimension 398 (e.g., diameter) taken perpendicular to the central axis 390. The length 396 is greater than the greatest cross-sectional dimension 398.

[0087] Optionally, a contoured interface 385 (e.g., non-planar interface) may exists between two of the damper housing, rotor, or the elastic shaft. For example, a contoured interface may exist between a shaft end and the rotor, between a shaft end and the damper housing, or between the damper housing and the rotor. The contoured interface may be oriented generally transverse to the central axis 390. The contoured interface is shaped to compress the elastic shaft 310 along the central axis 390, thereby increasing a magnitude of the opposing force. For example, the contoured interface 385 may include a wedge 382 and the rotor may have a slanted surface 384. As the rotor is rotated, the wedge 382 presses upon the slanted surface 384, thereby axially compressing the elastic shaft 310, which may provide an increased resistance against an operating movement.

[0088] Figure 6 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a mechanical system 350 that includes the damper assembly 302, a movable component 312, and a support structure 314. As shown, the movable component 312 (e.g., door to glove box or compartment) may have a U-shaped bracket 313 that receives a portion of the damper assembly 302. Passages and cavities of the different components align to permit the axle 318 to be inserted therethrough. Accordingly, the damper assembly 302 forms a portion of a hinge that rotatably connects the movable component 312 and the support structure 314. The support structure 314 may be, for example, a wall or panel.

[0089] The damper housing 306, the rotor 308, and the elastic shaft 310 may be coupled to one another in a similar manner as described above with respect to the damper assembly 104 (Figure 1). For example, the different components may be coupled through projections and corresponding recesses (e.g., openings, slots, channels) or similar male-female type couplings. When the elastic shaft 310 is in an operating position, the elastic shaft 310 is only permitted to move about the central axis.

[0090] Figures 8 and 9 are perspective and side views, respectively, of a damper assembly 400 in accordance with an embodiment. The damper assembly 400 may be similar to the damper assembly 104 (Figure 1). More specifically, the damper assembly 400 has a telescopic or barrel configuration. The damper assembly 400 includes a damper housing 402, a rotor 404, and an elastic shaft 406 (Figure 8). The elastic shaft 406 is mostly hidden from view by the damper housing 402 and the rotor 404 but is visible through an axle passage 408. The rotor 404 includes coupling tabs 410, 411 that are sized and shaped to be received within a slot another component (not shown), such as a support structure. The damper housing 402 includes a coupling tab 412 that is sized and shaped to be received within a slot of another component (e.g., door).

[0091] Figures 10 and 11 are end views of the damper assembly 400 in a first operating condition and in a second operating condition, respectively. The first operating condition may be, for example, when a door of a glove compartment is in a closed position. The second operating condition may be, for example, when the door is a fully opened position. In Figures 10 and 11, the rotor 404 has the same rotational orientation with respect to a central axis 420. The damper housing 402, on the other hand, has a first rotational orientation in Figure 10 and a second rotational orientation in Figure 11.

[0092] The coupling tab 412 of the damper housing 402 is configured to rotate from the first rotational orientation (Figure 10) to the second rotational orientation (Figure 11). In other embodiments, the coupling tab 412 may be part of the rotor 404. To be clear, either the damper housing 402 or the rotor 404 or both may rotate so that the two rotatably-coupled components (e.g., door and panel) may move with respect to one another from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation. As shown by the dashed arrow in Figure 11, the coupling tab 412 is configured to rotate 90° from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation. In other embodiments, the coupling tab 412 may rotate fewer degrees or more degrees. For example, a range may be between 30° and 270°. For some embodiments, the coupling tab 412 may rotate at most 145° or, more particularly, at most 120°. Yet in more particular embodiments, the coupling tab 412 may rotate at most 90°.

[0093] Figures 12-15 illustrate a damper assembly 500 having a C-clamped configuration in accordance with an embodiment. Figures 12 and 13 are perspective and side views, respectively, of the damper assembly 500. The damper assembly 500 may be similar to the damper assembly 302 (Figure 4). The damper assembly 500 includes a damper housing 502, a rotor 504, and an elastic shaft 506 (Figure 13). The rotor 504 includes a coupling tab 512 that is sized and shaped to be received within a slot another component (e.g., door). The damper housing 502 includes coupling tabs 510, 511 that are sized and shaped to be received within a slot of another component, such as a support structure (not shown). An axle passage 508 extends entirely through the damper assembly 500.

[0094] As shown in Figure 13, the damper housing 502 includes a torque feature 505 that is received within a notch 507 of the elastic shaft 506. Optionally, the damper housing 502 may include another torque feature (not shown) that is opposite the torque feature 505, and the elastic shaft 506 may have another notch (not shown) that is opposite the notch 507. Yet in other embodiments, the damper housing 502 and the elastic shaft 506 may have other mateable male-female features (e.g., projections and recesses) that engage one another. Although not shown, the elastic shaft 506 may couple to the rotor 504 in a similar manner as described herein.

[0095] Figure 14 is a cross-sectional view taken along the line 14-14 shown in Figure 13. In Figure 14, the rotor 504 is in a first rotational orientation and the elastic shaft 506 is in a relaxed or non-twisted condition. In some embodiments, the elastic shaft 506 may be pre-torqued. As such, the term "relaxed condition" does not require the elastic shaft to be entirely relaxed. Instead, the elastic shaft may have the most relaxed condition that the elastic shaft may have during operation.

[0096] Figure 15 is an end view of the damper assembly 500 in a first operating condition. The coupling tab 512 of the rotor 504 is configured to rotate from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation (indicated by dashed lines). As shown by the dashed arrow in Figure 15, the coupling tab 512 is configured to rotate 90° from the first rotational orientation to the second rotational orientation. In other embodiments, the coupling tab 512 may rotate fewer degrees or more degrees as described above with respect to the coupling tab 412 (Figure 8).

[0097] Figure 18 is an isolated side view of an elastic shaft 600 formed in accordance with an embodiment. The elastic shaft 600 may be similar to the elastic shaft 110 (Figure 1), the elastic shaft 202 (Figure 2), the elastic shaft 310 (Figure 4), the elastic shaft 406 (Figure 8), and/or the elastic shaft 506 (Figure 13). In some instances, the elastic shaft 600 may replace one of these elastic shafts and be part of the damper assembly 104 (Figure 1), the damper assembly 302 (Figure 3), the damper assembly 400 (Figure 8), or the damper assembly 500 (Figure 12). For example, the elastic 600 extends lengthwise along a central axis 610 between a first shaft end 602 and a second shaft end 604. The central axis 610 extends through a geometric center of the elastic shaft 600. The elastic shaft 600 includes a first end section 604 having the first shaft end 602 and a second end section 606 having the second shaft end 604. A dampening portion 608 of the elastic shaft 600 extends between the first and second end sections 604, 606. The dampening portion 608 represents a portion of the elastic shaft 600 that experiences sheer stresses and strain stresses when a torque is applied to the elastic shaft 600. The dampening portion 608 twists about the central axis 610 when the torque is applied. The dampening portion 608 has a length 609 measured along the central axis 610.

[0098] As shown, the first end section 604 has a first outer diameter 612. The second end section 606 has a second outer diameter 614. In the illustrated embodiment, the first and second outer diameters 612, 614 are essentially identical and uniform throughout the respective end section. In other embodiments, however, the first and second outer diameters 612, 614 may be different from one another and/or varying.

[0099] The dampening portion 608 has a third outer diameter 616. In the illustrated embodiment, the third outer diameter 616 is smaller than (or less than) the first outer diameter 612 for at least a majority of the dampening portion 608. Likewise, the third outer diameter 616 is smaller than (or less than) the second outer diameter 614 for at least a majority of the dampening portion 608. In certain embodiment, the third outer diameter 616 is smaller than (or less than) the first outer diameter 612 and the second outer diameter for at least 75% of the length 609 of the dampening portion 608 or, more particularly, for at least 90% of the length 609 of the dampening portion 608.

[0100] In the illustrated embodiment, the third outer diameter 616 has a common size or value (e.g., is uniform or is the same) for a majority of the length 609 of the dampening portion 608. In certain embodiments, the third outer diameter 616 has the same size or value for at least 60% of the length 609 of the dampening portion 608 or, in certain embodiments, for at least at 75% of the length 609 of the dampening portion 608. In other embodiments, however, the third outer diameter 616 of the dampening portion 608 may be non-uniform or, in other words, have a different sizes or values.

[0101] In some embodiments, the dampening portion 600 may include transition sections. For example, the dampening portion 600 has an intermediate section 620 and first and second transition sections 621, 622. The first transition section 621 extends between the intermediate section 620 and the first end section 604. The second transition section 622 extends between the intermediate section 620 and the second end section 606. In particular embodiments, the first, second, third outer diameters and the first and second transition sections 621, 622 are selected so that at least a portion of the elastic shaft 600 is bar-bell shaped.

[0102] Similar to the other elastic shafts described herein, the elastic shaft 600 is configured to securely couple to two different components that rotate with respect to one another. Each component may hold a portion of the elastic shaft is an essentially fixed manner such that, if and when the component is rotated, the elastic shaft experiences a torque caused by rotation of the component. With respect to Figure 18, the first end section 604 includes a grip opening 624, and the second end section 606 includes a second grip opening 626. The first and second grip openings 624, 626 are sized and shaped to receive respective projections (e.g., posts) of the components to which the elastic shaft is secured to. In the illustrated embodiment, the elastic shaft 600 is configured to be secured to a control panel 632 (Figure 19) and an access door 640 (Figure 19). However, the elastic shaft 600 may be secured to other components in other embodiments.

[0103] Accordingly, a first component (e.g., access door or control panel) may engage the grip opening 624 to attach to the elastic shaft 600 at a first cross-section 625 along the central axis 610, and a second component (e.g., the control panel or the access door) may engage the grip opening 626 to attach to the elastic shaft 600 at a second cross-section 627 along the central axis 610. For clarity or simplicity, the first cross- section may be labeled as a rotor cross-section or a proximal cross-section, and the second cross-section may be labeled as a housing cross-section or a distal cross-section. The dampening portion 608 extends between the first and second cross-sections 625, 627. The dampening portion 608 is configured to yield to a designated torque applied at the distal cross-section 625 in a direction about the central axis 610. When the torque exceeds a designated amount, the dampening portion 608 twists about the central axis 610.

[0104] Figure 19 is a schematic side view of a vehicle sub-system 630. The vehicle sub-system 630 includes a control panel 632 and an access door 640. The control panel 632 has, among other things, a compartment 634 that is configured to store a variety of items. The compartment 634 includes an opening 636 through which the compartment 634 is accessed. The access door 640 is configured to cover the opening 636 when the access door 640 is in a closed position. In particular embodiments, the vehicle sub-system 630 is or includes a glove box (or glove compartment).

[0105] In Figure 19, the access door 640 is in an opened position. As used herein, the term "opened position" includes a position in which the access door 640 is partially rotated and a position in which the access door 640 is fully rotated. The access door 640 is rotatably coupled to the control panel 632 at a hinge assembly 642. The hinge assembly 642 includes the elastic shaft 600 and, optionally, other elements, such as an axle or axlelike elements. As such, the access door 640 is configured to rotate about the central axis 610 of the elastic shaft 600.

[0106] The elastic shaft 600 is secured to the control panel 632 and also secured to the access door 640. The dampening portion 608 (614) of the elastic shaft 600 is configured to yield to a designated torque applied by the access door 640 as the access door 640 moves away from the closed position. The dampening portion 608 provides an opposing force that resists movement of the access door 640 from the closed position to the opened position. The torque (as indicated by the arrow 651) may be applied by a user opening the access door 640 and/or by gravity pulling a weight of the access door 640. [0107] In the illustrated embodiment, the dampening portion 608 is devoid of a passage extending along the central axis 610 between the first and second shaft ends 602, 604 (Figure 18). In other embodiments, the dampening portion 608 is tubular having a passage (not shown) extending therethrough. In such embodiments, the tubular dampening portion may be similar to the dampening portion 220 (Figure 2) having the shaft passage 208 (Figure 2) extending therethrough.

[0108] As described above, the illustrated embodiment of Figure 19 is a vehicle sub-system that includes a control panel and an access door. In other embodiments, however, the sub-system may be another mechanical sub-system having a support structure and a movable component that is rotatably-coupled to the support structure in a hinge-like manner.

[0109] Figure 20 is an enlarged view of the vehicle sub-system 630 along an interface 650 between the control panel 632 and the access door 640. As shown, the elastic shaft 600 forms a portion of the hinge assembly 642. The hinge assembly 642 may also include axle-like features 652, 653, 654, and 655 that enable the access door 640 to rotate about the central axis 610. The axle-like features include axle projections

652, 654 and axle cavities 653, 655 that receive the axle projections 652, 654, respectively. In the illustrated embodiment, the access door 640 is shaped to include the axle projections 652, 654 and the control panel 632 is shaped to include the axle cavities

653, 655. In other embodiments, the access door 640 may include the axle cavities, and the control panel 632 may include the axle projections. As shown, the axle cavities 653, 655 and the axle projections 652, 654 are aligned along the central axis 610. In other embodiments, the hinge assembly 642 may include an elastic shaft having an axle extending therethrough, similar to the damper assembly 104 and others.

[0110] In some embodiments the vehicle sub-system 630 may be assembled by attaching the control panel 632 to the proximal cross-section 627 of the elastic shaft 600 and attaching the access door 640 to the distal cross-section 625 of the elastic shaft 600. As such, the dampening portion 608 may twist about the central axis 610 when the dampening portion 608 yields to a designated torque applied by the access door 640 as the access door 640 moves away from the closed position. The dampening portion 608 may provide an opposing force 660 that resists movement of the access door 640 from the closed position to the opened position. The dampening portion 608 may also provide an additive force 662 that reduces work for moving from the opened position to the closed position.

[0111] Optionally, the elastic shaft may be pre-torqued during assembly and usage. For example, the elastic shaft 600 may be partially rotated about the central axis 610 when the access door 640 is in the closed position. In such embodiments, the elastic shaft may be characterized as having or being in a "relaxed condition" when the access door is closed, despite the elastic shaft being partially rotated. In this case, the condition of the elastic shaft is more relaxed than other more twisted or torqued positions. As such, a pre-torqued elastic shaft may have a relaxed condition when the access door is closed and a twisted condition when the access door is rotated away from the closed position.

[0112] Figures 21 and 22 illustrate a perspective view and an end view, respectively, of an elastic shaft 700 formed in accordance with an embodiment. The elastic shaft 700 may be part of a sub-system, such as the vehicle sub-system 630 (Figure 19). The elastic shaft 700 may include features that are similar or identical to features of other elastic shafts described herein. For example, the elastic shaft 700 extends lengthwise along a central axis 702 between a first shaft end 704 and a second shaft end 706 (Figure 21). In the illustrated embodiment, the elastic shaft 700 is barbell-shaped. The elastic shaft 700 includes a dampening portion 708 (Figure 21) that is configured to twist about the central axis 702. The dampening portion 708 extends between the first and second shaft ends 704, 706 and includes an elastic material.

[0113] The elastic shaft 700 may be secured to a control panel and secured to an access door, such as the control panel 632 (Figure 19) and the access door 640 (Figure 19). The dampening portion 708 is configured to yield to a designated torque. For example, the dampening portion 708 may yield to a designated torque applied by an access door as the access door moves away from a closed position. The dampening portion may provide an opposing force that resists movement of the access door from the closed position to the opened position.

[0114] As shown, the elastic shaft 700 has a first end section 714 that includes the first shaft end 704 and has a first outer diameter 715. The elastic shaft 700 also has a second end section 716 that includes the second shaft end 706 and has a second outer diameter 717 (Figure 21). The dampening portion 708 has a third outer diameter 718 that is less than the first outer diameter 715 and less than the second outer diameter 717.

[0115] The first and second end sections 714, 716 may have profiles 730 that are at least partially polygonal. As used herein, the term "profile" may mean an outer boundary of an end face or an outer boundary of a cross-section taken transverse to the central axis 702. The outer boundary may be maintained along the central axis 702 for at least a portion of the end section.

[0116] In the illustrated embodiment, the profiles 730 for each of the end sections 714, 716 are identical. In other embodiments, however, the profiles 730 may be different. In some embodiments, the first and second end sections 714, 716 may have a plurality of surfaces 724, 726, respectively, that form the respective profiles 730 when viewed along the central axis 702. The profiles 730 may be at least partially polygonal. In the illustrated embodiment, the surfaces 724, 726 are planar surfaces and the respective profiles 730 are hexagonal. In other embodiments, however, the respective profiles 730 may be similar to another polygon (e.g., triangle, rectangle, heptagon, etc.) In other embodiments, one or more the surfaces 724 or one or more of the surfaces 726 may have a curved contour. The profiles 730 may be configured so that the corresponding end section may be gripped and held in a fixed position relative to the access door or to the control panel.

[0117] As shown in Figure 22, the dampening portion 708 may be tubular having a passage 722 extending therethrough. Alternatively, the dampening portion 708 may be devoid of a passage extending along the central axis between the first and second shaft ends. [0118] Although the illustrated embodiment includes grip openings within the elastic shaft, it is contemplated that other embodiments may include grip projections of the elastic shaft that are inserted into grip openings of the other component. For example, the rotor and/or the damper housing may include grip openings that receive grip projections of the elastic shaft. Accordingly, the term "grip feature" means a physical shape that is designed to engage and couple to another grip feature. Grip features include projections (e.g., posts, latches, and the like) and compatibly-designed grip openings (e.g., cavities, holes, channels, slots, and the like). It should be understood that grip features may be overmolded. For example, a post of damper housing may be inserted into a mold cavity that is used to form the elastic shaft. When the elastic shaft is formed, the post is overmolded with the material of the elastic shaft and permanently affixed thereto.

[0119] Yet in other embodiments, individual grip features may not be used. For example, an end section of the elastic shaft 600 may be overmolded onto a part of the damper housing or the rotor. The elastic shaft may encase the damper housing or the rotor. As such, the elastic shaft is permanently affixed to the damper housing or the rotor. As yet another example, the end section may be designed to have a designated profile that is gripped so that the end section is held in a fixed position relative to the control panel or the access door. Figures 21 and 22 illustrate such an embodiment. The end section may have a profile that complements a shape of a cavity that receives the end section.

[0120] Accordingly, embodiments of the present disclosure provide a damper assembly, which may be referred to more particularly as a torsion hinge damper assembly. The damper assembly may be configured to counter a constant force such as gravity (e.g., with respect to a glove compartment) or may be configured to counter a variable force (e.g., with respect to a door handle). In at least one embodiment, the damper assembly includes an elastic shaft. In particular embodiments, the elastic shaft is a tube and may be referred to as a "torsion tube" or "twister". The damper assembly may be used at a hinge location of a rotational application. The damper assembly may be integrated with the hinge.

[0121] The elastic shaft is formed of an elastic material. Various methods may be used to fabricate the elastic shaft. For example, the elastic shaft may be molded or shaped by removing material. The elastic shaft may be pre-formed and inserted into the designated position. Alternatively, the elastic shaft may be overmolded. For example, the elastic shaft may be overmolded with the rotor. The elastic shaft may be keyed internally to the damper housing and rotor, both of which may be formed of rigid materials (such as metal or plastic). For example, keying ribs of the housing and the rotor may extend into reciprocal grip openings (e.g., holes or slots) formed in the torsion tube. The keying ribs may be referred to as torque features.

[0122] The elastic shaft may be contained within a designated space defined by the rotor, the damper housing and, optionally, an axle. The rotor, the damper housing, and/or the axle may provide boundaries that resist deformation of the elastic shaft. In other embodiments, an interface may be used to further compress the elastic shaft, thereby changing properties of the elastic shaft. The elastic shaft may be sandwiched between the damper housing and the rotor, such as in a telescopic or nested manner. As such, the rotor, elastic shaft, and the damper housing may longitudinally slide together. The telescopic/nested configuration allows the components to be assembled together. Once assembled, the only degree of freedom may be to rotate about the central axis.

[0123] For some configurations, snap tabs may retain the rotor inside the damper housing or vice versa. During insertion of the rotor, the snaps of the rotor push the snap tabs of the housing outward. Once the rotor is pushed all the way inside the housing, the snap tabs flex inward so that the snaps of the rotor fit inside the snap slots of the housing. Torque features (e.g., projections, ribs, holes, slots, channels, cavities) may be used to securely couple the elastic shaft to the damper housing and to the rotor.

[0124] The damper assembly may be fluidless. In other words, the damper assembly may be devoid of a damping fluid that is used to control motion, unlike known damping mechanisms. In some embodiments, the damper assembly may be essentially friction-less such that friction does not provide a significant force. Instead, an opposing force (or damping force) is generated by the elastic shaft and impedes rotation. That is, as the rotor rotates relative to the damper housing, the elastic shaft, which is securely coupled to both the damper housing and the rotor, twists in response. The elastic shaft impedes the rotation in a first direction, thereby damping motion. Further, the energy stored in the twisted or otherwise rotated elastic shaft provides an additive force that assists motion back to the original, relaxed or starting position.

[0125] The elastic property of the elastic shaft may cause increasing resistance (opposing torque/force) to the rotation of a component during an opening stroke, which are either subject to constant force (but varying leverage) and/or various force typically from an operating spring. The damper assembly may slow down such movement. The damping function reduces acceleration during an opening process and may mitigate shock at the end of the stroke. For example, at the end of the opening stroke, a moving part is stopped, such as by a rubber bumper. If the acceleration is not slowed down before the end of the opening stroke, the moving part would slam at the opening stop, thereby generating nose and potentially causing contents to be ejected from the component (such as a glove compartment).

[0126] The torsion hinge damper assembly dampens motion in an opening direction, and may assist movement towards a closing direction, unlike known dampers, which dampen motion in both directions. A hysteretic behavior of the elastic shaft dissipates potential energy to some extent to soften movement of both opening and closing stroke.

[0127] Torsion is circular shear that occurs uniformly throughout a thickness, while friction mainly happens at the surface rubbing against another part. Unlike certain prior known dampers, any heat built up may be more evenly distributed inside the elastic material of the elastic shaft, instead of just at the surface. Torsion is a stretching of weak inter-molecular bonds inside the rubbery part, but friction is on the surface. There may be negligible wear due to a lack of relative movement at any interface where the energy/heat concentrates. Energy loss is only a fraction of the total potential energy due to hysteretic property of the elastic material.

[0128] Accordingly, embodiments may gradually increase an opposing force (or torque) against gravity or an operating force as the component is moved. The damper assembly may generate at most a negligible amount of heat and restore potential energy after the component is returned to a closed position. The damper assembly retain energy internally (such as within the elastic shaft). The damper assembly may minimize wear at interfaces of the components. Because the damping occurs via the elastic shaft, which stretches molecular bonds during damping, instead of at outer surfaces of interfaces.

[0129] Embodiments provide a damper assembly that includes an elastic shaft operatively coupled to a damper housing and a rotor. The elastic shaft dampens motion in a first direction and may assist motion in a second direction opposite from the first direction. The damper assembly may be integrated with a hinge assembly. In particular embodiments, the damper assembly is used at a hinge location of a glove compartment within a vehicle, but the damper assembly may have other applications.

[0130] While various spatial and directional terms, such as top, bottom, lower, mid, lateral, horizontal, vertical, front and the like may be used to describe embodiments of the present disclosure, it is understood that such terms are merely used with respect to the orientations shown in the drawings. The orientations may be inverted, rotated, or otherwise changed, such that an upper portion is a lower portion, and vice versa, horizontal becomes vertical, and the like.

[0131] Variations and modifications of the foregoing are within the scope of the present invention. It is understood that the invention disclosed and defined herein extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text and/or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the present invention. The embodiments described herein explain the best modes known for practicing the invention and will enable others skilled in the art to utilize the invention. The claims are to be construed to include alternative embodiments to the extent permitted by the prior art.