Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
A DAMPER UNIT, A DAMPER ASSEMBLY, METHODS OF MAKING A DAMPER UNIT AND A DAMPER ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/129512
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A damper unit (40) for use in a vibration-reducing assembly (6) for a steering wheel (2) is disclosed. An elastomeric damper element (70) is molded on an inner sleeve (52) and presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs (77) forming a radially outer engagement surface (75), and a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction are flexible in all directions transverse to said axis. Methods for making a damper unit and a damper assembly are also disclosed.

Inventors:
MYKLEBUST ERIK (SE)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2018/085043
Publication Date:
July 04, 2019
Filing Date:
December 14, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
VIBRACOUSTIC FORSHEDA AB (SE)
International Classes:
F16F1/38; B60R21/203; F16F15/08
Domestic Patent References:
WO2001092752A12001-12-06
WO2013167524A12013-11-14
WO2008127157A12008-10-23
Foreign References:
JP2016064808A2016-04-28
DE19653684A11998-06-18
DE102013002557A12014-08-21
JP2015189284A2015-11-02
EP2085290A12009-08-05
US8985623B22015-03-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AWA SWEDEN AB (SE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A damper unit for use in a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly for a steering wheel, said damper unit having an insertion end and an opposite rear end, and being configured to be inserted with its insertion end through a mounting opening provided in a horn plate of said damper assembly, said damper unit comprising:

- a sleeve having a central bore extending along an axis, and

- an elastomeric damper element which molded on a radial outer side of the sleeve such that the sleeve and the damper element together form a unitary structure,

wherein:

the elastomeric damper element presents an elastomeric insertion part configured to be inserted into the mounting opening of the horn plate, and an elastomeric support part configured to define a final mounting position of the damper unit;

the elastomeric insertion part presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs which extend at least partially along said axis and are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction in relation to said axis, said ribs together forming a radially outer engagement surface configured to be brought into direct engagement with an inner surface of said mounting opening;

the radially outer engagement surface has a first radial dimension, and the elastomeric support part has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension;

at least some of the elastomeric ribs present a radially outward extending snap-lock protrusion configured to be inserted through the mounting opening to snap-lock the damper unit in its final mounting position; and said elastomeric support part presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and extend at least partially in the direction of said axis, said elastomeric support studs being flexible in all directions transverse to said axis.

2. A damper unit according to claim 1 , wherein said plurality of support studs are located at a radial position radially outside the ribs.

3. A damper unit according to any of the preceding claims, wherein:

said plurality of support studs form a first set of a first support studs each having a distal end facing axially towards the insertion end of the damper unit; said elastomeric support part further presents one or more second elastomeric support studs, each second support stud having a distal end facing axially towards the insertion end of the damper unit and extending at least partially in the direction of said axis, and

the distal ends of the first support studs are located axially closer to the insertion end of the damper unit than the distal ends of the second support studs.

4. A damper unit according to claim 3, wherein said one or more second support studs form a second set of a plurality of second support studs which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and which are circumferentially interlaced with the first supports studs and spaced therefrom.

5. A damper unit according to claim 3 or 4, wherein said first support studs together present a first total axial stiffness, and wherein said one or more second support studs together present a second total axial stiffness which is larger than the first total axial stiffness.

6. A damper unit according to claim 4 or 5, wherein:

- the axially distal ends of the first support studs together form a first total surface area axially facing the insertion end of the damper unit, and

- the axially distal ends of the second support studs together form a second total surface area axially facing the insertion end of the damper unit, said second total surface area being larger than the first total surface area.

7. A damper unit according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said sleeve of the damper unit is a slider being configured, upon horn activation on the steering wheel, to slide in the direction of said axis along a guide shaft received in said central bore of the slider.

8. A damper unit according to claim 7, wherein:

said elastomeric vibration damper element is molded on a first part of the slider;

the damper unit further comprises an elastomeric horn spring element having a horn spring part and an attachment part molded in one piece with each other; the attachment part of the horn spring element is molded on a second part of the slider; and

the horn spring part is configured to exert a force on the slider in the direction of the axis before and upon horn activation on the steering wheel. 9. A damper unit as claimed in claim 8, wherein the elastomeric vibration damper element and the elastomeric horn spring element are molded in one piece with each other.

10. A damper unit as claimed in claim 8 or 9, wherein the attachment part of the horn spring element is mechanically bonded to the slider.

11. A damper unit as claimed in claim 10, wherein the attachment part of the horn spring element is mechanically bonded to the slider by means of one or more molded locking elements, which are molded in one piece with the damper element and the horn spring element and which are in mechanical locking engagement with associated one or more locking openings in the slider. 12. A damper unit as claimed in claim 11 , wherein the slider comprises:

a tubular element extending along said axis and presenting said bore; and

a flange extending radially outwards from the tubular element and presenting said locking openings in the form through-holes; wherein the damper element and the horn spring element are located on opposite axial sides of the flange.

13. A damper unit as claimed in any of claims 8 to 12, wherein the horn spring part extends at least in part axially beyond the slider.

14. A damper unit as claimed in any of claims 8 to 13, wherein the horn spring part is at least partly bellow-shaped.

15. A damper unit as claimed in any of claims 8 to 14, wherein at least one of the elastomeric damper element and the attachment part of the elastomeric horn spring element is chemically bonded to the slider, such as by adhesion bonding.

16. A frequency-tuned damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, comprising:

a base structure which is fixed to a steering wheel and presents vibrations to be dampened;

a horn plate;

one or more damper units according to claim 1 , each damper unit being arranged in an associated mounting opening in the horn plate with its radially outer engagement surface in direct contact with the horn plate for transferring said vibrations;

one or more guide shafts, each guide shaft being fixed to the base structure and being received in the central bore of the sleeve of the associated damper unit; and

a mass which is supported by the base structure via the damper elements of the damper units for allowing movement of the mass transverse to said axis;

wherein the damper element and the mass are configured to operate as a frequency-tuned spring-mass system forming a frequency-tuned dynamic damper for dampening said vibrations.

17. An assembly as claimed in claim 16, wherein the weight of the mass comprises at least the weight of a horn plate and the weight of an airbag assembly supported by the horn plate.

18. An assembly as claimed in any of claims 16 to 18, wherein each guide shaft is part of a threaded bolt; and wherein a bolt head of each bolt is configured to act as a stop for limiting axial movement of the associated slider.

19. An assembly as claimed in any of claims 16 to 19, wherein a distal end of the elastomeric ribs of each damper unit are a compressed by the bolt head of the associated bolt for further locking the damper unit to the horn plate.

20. An assembly as claimed in any of claims 16 to 19, wherein the sleeve of each damper unit is a slider being configured, upon horn activation on the steering wheel, to slide in the direction of said axis along the associated guide shaft received in the central bore of the slider, and wherein the assembly further comprises a horn spring for each damper unit, said horn spring being configured to exert a force on the slider in the direction of the axis before and upon horn activation on the steering wheel.

21. An assembly as claimed in claim 20, wherein the horn spring is an elastomeric horn spring element molded on the slider.

22. An assembly as claimed in claim 20, wherein the horn spring is a separate metallic horn spring arranged between the damper unit and the base structure.

23. An assembly as claimed in claim 20, wherein said one or more damper units are damper units in accordance with claim 3, wherein:

- the distal ends of the first support studs are configured to be in axial contact with a rear side of the horn plate both before horn activation;

- the distal ends of the second support studs are spaced by an axial gap from the rear side of the horn plate before horn activation;

- the distal ends of the first support studs are configured to be axially compressed during an initial phase of horn activation by an amount corresponding to the size of said axial gap, such that the axial gap is eliminated so that also the second support studs have contact with the rear side of the horn plate.

24. A method of manufacturing a damper unit as claimed in any of claims 1 to 15, comprising:

molding, on a radially outer first part of a sleeve, an elastomeric vibration damper element having an elastomeric insertion part configured to be inserted into a mounting opening of the horn plate, and an elastomeric support part configured to define a final insertion position of the damper unit; wherein:

- the elastomeric insertion part presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs which extend at least partially along said axis and are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction in relation to said axis, said ribs together forming a radially outer engagement surface configured to be brought into direct engagement with an inner surface of a mounting opening;

- the radially outer engagement surface has a first radial dimension, and the elastomeric support part has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension; and

- said elastomeric support part presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and extend at least partially in the direction of said axis, said elastomeric support studs being flexible in all directions transverse to said axis.

25. A method of manufacturing according to claim 24, further comprising molding an elastomeric horn spring element comprising a horn spring part and an attachment part molded in one piece with each other, wherein the attachment part is molded on a second part of the sleeve.

26. The method of manufacturing as claimed in claim 25, wherein the elastomeric damper element and elastomeric horn spring element are molded in one piece with each other.

27. A method of manufacturing as claimed in claim 26, wherein the sleeve comprises a tubular element extending along said axis, and a flange extending radially outwards from the tubular element and presenting one or more locking openings in the form through-holes; and wherein molding the elastomeric damper element and the elastomeric horn spring element comprises molding the damper element and the horn spring element on axially opposite sides of the flange and in one piece with each other and with one or more locking elements, said locking elements extending through said locking openings to mechanically bond the damper element and the horn spring element to the slider.

28. A method of manufacturing as claimed in any of claims 24 to 27, further comprising frequency tuning the damper by selecting one or more of parameters including:

the number of ribs,

- the circumferential, radial, and/or axial dimensions of the ribs, and

- the circumferential, radial, and/or axial dimensions of spaces between the ribs.

29. A method for use in making a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, said method comprising:

using one or more damper units, each damper unit comprising a sleeve having a central bore which extends along an axis, and an elastomeric vibration damper element which is molded on a radial outer side of the sleeve such that the sleeve and the damper element together form a unitary structure, said elastomeric vibration damper element having:

an elastomeric insertion part presenting one or more radially outward extending snap-lock protrusions at an insertion end, and a radially outer engagement surface axially spaced from the snap-lock protrusions, said radially outer engagement surface having a first radial dimension, and

- an elastomeric support part which has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension; and

inserting each damper unit, in an insertion direction, into an associated mounting opening in a horn plate along an axis of the damper unit, wherein the damper unit is inserted into the mounting opening until a final insertion position is reached in which:

- the radially outer engagement surface of the elastomeric insertion portion is in direct contact with an inner surface of the mounting opening,

- the snap-lock protrusions have been inserted through the mounting opening to form a snap-lock of the damper unit in relation to the horn plate, and

- the elastomeric support part has been brought into axial contact with a rear side of the horn plate.

30. A method as claimed in claim 29, further comprising, inserting a bolt shaft of a bolt, in a direction opposite to said insertion direction, through the central bore of the sleeve and connecting a distal end of the bolt to a structure which is fixed to the steering wheel and which is subjected to vibrations.

31. A method as claimed in claim 29, further comprising compressing at least part of the elastomeric insertion part by said bolt head.

Description:
A DAMPER UNIT. A DAMPER ASSEMBLY. METHODS OF MAKING A DAMPER UNIT AND A DAMPER ASSEMBLY

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure generally relates to the field of frequency-tuned vibration dampers for motor vehicles. A damper unit for use in a vibration-reducing assembly for a steering wheel is disclosed. A frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly including one or more such damper units is also disclosed, as well as methods of making a damper unit and a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly.

BACKGROUND

The function of frequency-tuned vibration dampers, also termed tuned mass dampers, dynamic dampers or vibration absorbers, is based on a dampened spring- mass system which counteracts and reduces vibrations in a structure or surface to which the damper is connected by using one or more elastic damper elements for transferring vibrations from a vibrating structure to at least one mass which is caused to vibrate out of phase such as to dampen the vibrations. WO 01/92752 A1 , WO 2013/167524 A1 , and WO 2008/127157 A1 disclose examples of frequency- tuned vibration dampers.

In the automotive industry, some steering wheels are provided with frequency-tuned vibration dampers for reducing steering wheel vibrations caused by vibrations from the road and engine being transferred to the steering wheel. In such damper structures, the weight of an airbag module may be used as part of the weight of the mass in the spring-mass system. Also, steering wheels are generally provided with a horn activation mechanism by which a driver may activate a horn of the vehicle. Horn activation mechanisms of mechanical type typically comprise one or more metal spiral springs, referred to as horn springs, for returning the horn activation mechanism to its normal state after a horn activation. Electronic horn activation mechanisms without horn springs are also available. EP 2 085 290 discloses an example of a prior-art vibration-reducing damper structure for a steering wheel, including an elastic damper element arranged on a slider which is slidably mounted on a bolt shaft. Vibrations in the steering wheel are transferred by the elastic damper element to the airbag assembly for dampening purposes. During horn activation, the slider may slide along the bolt shaft. A conventional spiral spring is placed on the bolt shaft and is compressed upon horn activation for bringing the slider back to its normal position when the horn activation is terminated. One drawback of this prior art is that is that the assembly of the overall structure is complicated and time consuming, increasing manufacturing time and cost.

US 8 985 623 B2 discloses an alternative damper structure for a steering wheel. The overall operation is similar to the one in disclosed in EP 2 085 290 mentioned above, but the elastic element is encapsulated in a rigid multi-part protector structure. The protector is slidably arranged on a shaft and is biased by a horn spring towards the non-activated position of the horn activation mechanism. This prior-art solution has essentially the same drawbacks, and actually requires additional cost and time of manufacturing the protector.

Other drawbacks in the prior art include difficulties in frequency-tuning, frequency range limitations, in difficulties in maintaining a frequency tuning, and difficulties in obtaining desired spring characteristics upon horn activation.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

I n the light of the above, it is an object of the present inventive concept to address one or more of the above-mentioned disadvantages of the prior art and, to this end, provide (i) a damper unit for use in a vibration-reducing damper assembly for a steering wheel, (ii) a vibration damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, (iii) a method of manufacturing a damper unit, and (iv) a method of making a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly.

According to a first aspect, there is provided a damper unit for use in a frequency- tuned vibration damper assembly for a steering wheel, said damper unit having an insertion end and an opposite rear end, and being configured to be inserted with its insertion end through a mounting opening provided in a horn plate of said assembly, said damper unit comprising:

- a sleeve having a central bore extending along an axis, and

- an elastomeric damper element which molded on a radial outer side of the sleeve such that the sleeve and the damper element together form a unitary structure, wherein: the elastomeric damper element presents an elastomeric insertion part configured to be inserted into the mounting opening of the horn plate, and an elastomeric support part configured to define a final mounting position of the damper unit; the elastomeric insertion part presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs which extend at least partially along said axis and are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction in relation to said axis, said ribs together forming a radially outer engagement surface configured to be brought into direct engagement with an inner surface of said mounting opening; the radially outer engagement surface has a first radial dimension, and the elastomeric support part has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension; at least some of the elastomeric ribs present a radially outward extending snap-lock protrusion configured to be inserted through the mounting opening to snap-lock the damper unit in its final mounting position; and said elastomeric support part presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and extend at least partially in the direction of said axis, said elastomeric support studs being flexible in all directions transverse to said axis.

During the dampening operation, the elastomeric material of the damper element is compressed in the direction of the vibrations. An advantage obtained by the ribbed configuration is that the elastomeric material during the dampening operation may expand out in spaces between the ribs. Thereby, the spring constant of the damper element will present a more linear characteristic compared to“compact” prior-art non-ribbed damper elements having no spaces into which the compressed elastomeric may expand. Using damper units according to the inventive concept thus makes it possible to configure a dynamic spring-mass system which will stay better tuned to aimed at target frequency or frequencies, resulting in a more efficient and reliable dampening operation.

A further advantage obtained by the ribbed configuration is an increased flexibility in the frequency tuning during design and manufacturing. The dampening frequency of the damper assembly may be frequency tuned by varying the number of ribs, varying the circumferential, radial, and/or axial dimensions of the ribs and/or varying the spaces between the ribs. Thus, one may use thicker or thinner ribs in the circumferential direction; longer or shorter ribs in the axial direction; longer or shorter ribs in the radial direction, etc.

Also, the frequency interval within which the damper element is tunable may also be expanded and or moved by using a ribbed configuration compared to prior-art elastomeric damper elements. It may also be easier to design damper units having different damping frequencies in different direction by varying the rib design in different directions.

At least some, preferably all, of the elastomeric ribs present a radially outward extending snap-lock protrusion. The snap-lock protrusions are configured to be inserted into and passed through the mounting opening to snap-lock the damper unit in its final mounting position. During the insertion procedure, the snap-lock protrusions may be temporarily compressed and/or moved inwards in the radial direction as they pass through the mounting opening. When the damper unit has been inserted to its final mounting position, the elastomeric snap-lock protrusions will automatically move and/or expand radially outwards in order to engage a distal side of the horn plate or a sleeve fixed at the mounting opening.

The support part of the elastomeric damper element has a larger radial dimension than the engagement surface of the insertion part. The dimensions of the support part may be selected sufficiently large to prevent the support part from passing through the mounting opening during assembly. Thereby, the support part of the elastomeric damper element may act as an insertion stop during the assembly, defining the final mounting position of the damper element relative to the horn plate. In the final assembly, the elastomeric support part will typically be in direct contact with a rear side of the horn plate or the rear side of a sleeve arranged in the mounting opening. In the final assembly, the support part and the snap-lock protrusions will thus be arranged on opposite sides of the horn plate and together keep the damper unit in a fixed position in relation to the horn plate.

The support part of the elastomeric damper element presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs the ends of which are facing the insertion or distal end of the damper unit. The support studs are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and preferably distributed in 360 degrees around the axis. They extend at least partially in the direction of said axis. In preferred embodiments, the extend in parallel with the axis. The elastomeric support studs are flexible in all directions transverse to said axis, i.e. including radial directions, circumferential directions and combinations thereof. During assembly, the distal end surfaces of the support studs facing the insertion end of the damper unit will be brought into contact with the rear side of the horn plate in the final mounting position. This contact between the support studs and the horn plate will remain during all operations of the assembly, both during vibration damping and during horn activation. Due to frictional forces between the support studs and the rear side of the horn plate, the support studs will move in the transverse direction in response to the vibration damping operation. A specific advantage of this design using individual and transversely flexible support studs on the rear side of the horn plate is that the vibration damping effect (which occurs substantially on the opposite side of the horn plate only) will be substantially less affected by the interface or contact on the rear side between the horn plate and the elastomeric damper element. If for instance the steering wheel is vibrating back and forth horizontally in a clock direction 3 o’clock <-> 9 o’clock, then support studs located at or near positions 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock may flex horizontally, which would be in the radial direction in relation to the center of the steering wheel, in order not to substantially affect the vibration damping function. Support studs located at positions 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock may also flex horizontally, which however would be in the circumferential direction, in order not to substantially affect the vibration damping function. Other support studs would flex in directions being partly radial, partly circumferential.

In some embodiments, especially embodiments in which the damper unit is used in a vibration damper assembly for a steering wheel having a mechanical horn activation mechanism relying on an axial movement of the horn plate, said plurality of support studs form a first set of a first support studs each having a distal end facing axially towards the insertion end of the damper unit, and said elastomeric support part further presents one or more second elastomeric support studs, each second support stud having a distal end facing axially towards the insertion end of the damper unit and extending at least partially in the direction of said axis, wherein the distal ends of the first support studs are located axially closer to the insertion end of the damper unit than the distal ends of the second support studs. In preferred embodiments, there are a plurality of such second support studs. In some embodiments, the first and the second support studs may have different height.

An advantage obtained by this design is that two desirable but seemingly incompatible properties may be obtained by one and the same damper unit, one property relating to vibration damping and the other property relating to horn activation. With regard to vibration damping, a flexible interface is preferred between the elastomeric material and the rear side of the horn plate as discussed above in order to reduce the influence on the vibration damping operation. On the other hand, with regard to horn activation a stiff interface is preferred in order to initiate the horn spring compression as soon as possible when the driver presses the horn pad. Since the horn plate is supported by an elastomeric and thus compressible material on its rear side, there is a risk that the horn spring is not compressed until later during the horn activation since the elastomeric material will first be compressed in the axial direction upon horn activation before the force may be transferred to the horn spring. This will give an undesired varying spring constant when the horn pad is pressed, where the horn spring is not compressed during the initial movement of the horn plate. This“dilemma” may be solved by the design having first and second support studs, creating a“dynamic” support interface which changes its properties during the movement of the horn plate.

Before horn activation, the first support studs are in contact with the rear side of the horn plate, but the second support studs are axially spaced form the rear side of the horn plate by an axial gap. The size D of this axial gap may be in the order of one or few millimeters as an example. Other sizes are possible. When the driver has just initiated the horn activation by pressing a horn activation pad, the horn plate will move, and the first support studs will be compressed. It is preferred that the first support studs have relatively total limited cross-sectional dimension or stiffness in order for this compression to occur. The total“spring constant” of the whole set of the first support studs is preferably selected to be less than the spring constant of the horn spring. Therefore, the compression of the horn spring has not yet started. When the first support studs have been axially compressed by an amount D to a degree where their distal end surfaces are flush with the distal end surfaces of the second set of support studs, the rear side of the horn spring will have contact with both the first support studs and now also the second support studs. The gap D is now eliminated. Accordingly, selecting small dimensions for the first set of support studs has the advantage of both ensuring a flexible interface and ensuring a fast axial compression during the initial phase of the horn activation. When the axial gaps D between the second support studs and the horn plate have been eliminated, the total axial stiffness or total spring constant of all the first and second support studs in combination is preferably selected sufficiently large for the horn spring to be compressed when the driver presses the horn activation pad.

I n preferred embodiments, if the total axial spring constant of the first and the second set of support studs is k1 and k2, respectively, and the spring constant of the horn spring is k3, then the support studs should preferably be designed such that k1 + k2 > k3 in in order to ensure that the horn spring is compressed when the gaps D have been eliminated and the combined force from the support studs becomes larger than the pre-compression horn spring force given by k3.

In preferred embodiments, k1 < k2 or k1 « k2 in order to keep the interface as flexible as possible when no horn activation is present. However, other relations between k1 and k2 are also possible. The stiffness or compressibility of the support studs may be varied in different ways. For instance, the second support studs may have a larger cross-section transverse to the axis of the damper than the first support studs.

I n some embodiments, said one or more second support studs form a second set of a plurality of second support studs which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and which are circumferentially interlaced with the first supports studs and spaced therefrom. In other embodiments, there may be only one single second support stud, for example in the shape of a continuous ring extending circumferentially around the axis of the damper unit

In some embodiments, the horn spring is pre-compressed before horn activation. In some embodiments, the sleeve of the damper unit is a slider being configured, upon horn activation on the steering wheel, to slide in the direction of said axis along a guide shaft received in said central bore of the slider. In such embodiments, the elastomeric vibration damper element may be molded on a first part of the slider, wherein the damper unit may further comprise an elastomeric horn spring element having a horn spring part and an attachment part molded in one piece with each other. The attachment part of the horn spring element may be molded on a second part of the slider. The horn spring part may be configured to exert a force on the slider in the direction of the axis before and upon horn activation on the steering wheel.

Embodiments including an elastomeric horn spring integrally formed with the damper unit present at least the following advantages:

The number of components to manufacture, manage and assemble is reduced. During assembly, the damper unit is already provided with the molded horn spring element. Thereby, no separate horn spring has to be handled during assembly since the horn spring is already in place as an integral component of the damper unit. The mechanical horn spring mechanism is directly and automatically obtained upon mounting the slider on the guide shaft.

The horn plate can be quickly and easily connected to the base structure by one or more damper units, wherein each damper unit automatically provides - as a direct result of mounting the unit - both a vibration dampening function and a horn spring function without any need of handling or assembling a separate damping element or a separate horn spring.

It is possible to manufacture a multi-function unitary damper unit by molding the damper element and the horn spring element in one piece with each other on the slider in one single molding step. The unitary damper unit - including a slider plus an elastomeric damper element plus a horn spring element - will present a slider function, a vibration damping function and a horn spring function, respectively.

By molding the elastomeric horn spring element on the slider, it is possible to both manufacture the horn spring and to bond the horn spring to the slider in one single molding operation. By molding the horn spring element on the slider, the quality of the final product may be increased since no separate alignment and mounting of the horn spring is needed.

The damper unit may also be used with a separate horn spring, such as a conventional metallic spiral spring. In other embodiments, where the damper units are used in a damper assembly for a steering wheel having an electronic horn activation instead of a mechanical horn activation, the damper units may be used without any horn springs, just for connecting the horn plate to the base structure via the elastomeric elements in order to achieve the dynamic vibration damping effect.

Other preferred embodiments of the damper unit are set out in the dependent claims.

According to a second aspect, there is provided frequency-tuned damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, said assembly comprising:

a base structure which is fixed to a steering wheel and presents vibrations to be dampened;

a horn plate;

one or more damper units according to claim 1 , each damper unit being arranged in an associated mounting opening in the horn plate with its radially outer engagement surface in direct contact with the horn plate for transferring said vibrations;

one or more guide shafts, each guide shaft being fixed to the base structure and being received in the central bore of the sleeve of the associated damper unit; and

a mass which is supported by the base structure via the damper elements of the damper units for allowing movement of the mass transverse to said axis;

wherein the damper element and the mass are configured to operate as a frequency-tuned spring-mass system forming a frequency-tuned dynamic damper for dampening said vibrations.

In some embodiments of the damper assembly with a mechanical horn activation, a distal part of the elastomeric damper assembly of each damper unit may protrude axially beyond the mounting opening in the horn place. Upon horn activation, when a driver presses a horn pad of the steering wheel, the horn plate is moved against the spring force of one or more horn springs. When the driver subsequently releases the horn pad, the horn plate is moved back to its normal position by the horn springs. An advantage obtainable by this design is that the elastomeric distal part of the damper element, which protrudes axially beyond the mounting opening in the horn plate, may operate as an elastomeric stop element during the return movement of the horn plate. Upon horn activation, the distal part of the damper element may move away from the bolt head. When the horn pad is released, the horn springs will push the horn plate back towards its normal position. During the return movement, the elastomeric distal part of the damper element will engage the bolt head defining a“soft” dampened stop position for the return movement. Thus, the elastomeric damper elements of damper unites used in a damper assembly for a steering wheel may have multiple functions, including but not limited to transferring radially directed vibrations in the frequency-tuned dampening operation, and dampening an axially directed horn mechanism return movement.

As known as such in the prior art, the weight of an airbag assembly in the steering wheel may be preferably be used as part of the mass for the dynamic damping function of the dynamic spring-mass system in order to use a separate dead weight for this purpose. The weight of the horn plate and of further components supported by the horn plate will also contribute to the total weight of the vibrating mass.

In preferred embodiments, the part of the elastomeric damper element involved in the vibration dampening operation is pre-compressed as a result of the damper unit being inserted and mounted in the horn plate.

As a result of the insertion and mounting of the damper unit, the outer engagement surface of the damper unit is brought into direct engagement with an inner engagement surface of a mounting opening of the horn plate for transferring the vibrations. The inner engagement surface may be formed by the horn plate as such (made of metal for instance) or by a sleeve fixedly connected or molded to the horn plate and extending axially from the horn plate for providing an axially extended engagement interface. Such a sleeve may be a sleeve molded on the horn plate, for instance by a relatively rigid plastic material. The vibration-reducing damper assembly comprises at least one, but preferably a plurality of damper units according to the invention. Optionally the damper units may be configured to dampen vibrations in different directions. This may be achieved by using one or more damper units for one vibration direction, and one or more other damper units for a second vibration direction. It may also be possible to design each damper unit such that it may dampen different vibrations in different directions.

Preferred embodiments of the damper assembly may comprise one or more damper units according to any of the dependent claims 2 to 8. Preferred embodiments of the assembly are set out in the dependent claims.

According to a third aspect, there is provided a method of manufacturing a damper unit, comprising:

molding, on a radially outer first part of a sleeve, an elastomeric vibration damper element having an elastomeric insertion part configured to be inserted into a mounting opening of the horn plate, and an elastomeric support part configured to define a final insertion position of the damper unit; wherein:

- the elastomeric insertion part presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs which extend at least partially along said axis and are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction in relation to said axis, said ribs together forming a radially outer engagement surface configured to be brought into direct engagement with an inner surface of a mounting opening;

- the radially outer engagement surface has a first radial dimension, and the elastomeric support part has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension; and

- said elastomeric support part presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and extend at least partially in the direction of said axis, said elastomeric support studs being flexible in all directions transverse to said axis.

According to a fourth aspect of the inventive concept, there is provided a method for use making a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, said method comprising: using one or more damper units, each damper unit comprising a sleeve having a central bore which extends along an axis, and an elastomeric vibration damper element which is molded on a radial outer side of the sleeve such that the sleeve and the damper element together form a unitary structure, said elastomeric vibration damper element having: an elastomeric insertion part presenting one or more radially outward extending snap-lock protrusions at an insertion end, and a radially outer engagement surface axially spaced from the snap-lock protrusions, said radially outer engagement surface having a first radial dimension, and an elastomeric support part which has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension; and

inserting each damper unit, in an insertion direction, into an associated mounting opening in a horn plate along an axis of the damper unit, wherein the damper unit is inserted into the mounting opening until a final insertion position is reached in which: the radially outer engagement surface of the elastomeric insertion portion is in direct contact with an inner surface of the mounting opening, the snap-lock protrusions have been inserted through the mounting opening to form a snap-lock of the damper unit in relation to the horn plate, and the elastomeric support part has been brought into axial contact with a rear side of the horn plate.

Specific features of the inventive method of making a frequency-tuned damper assembly include that the elastomeric damper element and the slider/sleeve are inserted together into the mounting opening of the horn plate from one side of the horn plate only during the assembly, and that the elastomeric damper element is inserted in the insertion direction to such an extent that the elastomeric engagement surface is brought into engagement with the inner engagement surface of the mounting opening, and a distal part of the elastomeric damper element including the snap-lock protrusions projects axially beyond the inner engagement surface of the mounting opening. A first advantage of the method of making a frequency-tuned damper assembly is that the assembly of the components may be performed in a shorter time since the elastomeric damper element and the slider are inserted into the mounting opening of the horn plate together and from one side of the horn plate only during the assembly. The elastomeric damper element and the slider form a unitary structure to be assembled from said one side of the horn plate.

A second advantage of the method of making a frequency-tuned damper assembly is that the damper unit may easily be snap-locked to the mounting plate. The damper unit is inserted to an extent that the one or more radially outward extending snap- lock protrusions of the elastomeric damper element project over a distal axial edge of the mounting opening. Thereby, the inserted elastomeric damper element may be held in its correct position in relation to the horn plate by the snap-lock protrusions. Since said one or more snap-lock protrusions are integrally formed with the elastomeric element and, accordingly, are made of an elastomeric material, they may be temporarily radially compressed and/or bent during the insertion step in order to pass through the mounting opening. Thereby, no separate locking element has to be assembled from the opposite side of the horn plate, reducing assembly time and manufacturing costs.

The method of making a damper assembly may include the use of any of the embodiments of damper units as described above or as defined in the claims. Thus, the damper units may comprise ribs, support studs, integrated elastomeric horn springs. However, other designs are also possible, such as designs having no ribs but instead a continuous radially outer engagement surface.

Terminology

In the present disclosure, when an elastomeric element is stated to be“molded” on the sleeve or slider is should be interpreted as the relevant element is first of all a molded detail being manufactured by molding. Second, the expression“molded” is to be interpreted as the relevant element is created/molded directly on the sleeve or slider, in contrast to prior-art solutions where the relevant element is made as a separate part, such as in the form of a conventional spiral-shaped metal spring made separately and mounted in the assembly as a separate part. In preferred embodiments, the elastomeric material includes silicone rubber. In the present disclosure, the term“slider” may refer to an element which is arranged to slide along a guide shaft during horn activation. This is the case when a mechanical horn activation mechanism is used. However, the term“slider” may also refer to a sleeve which is arranged to be mounted on but not to slide along a guide shaft. This is the case when an electronic horn activation is used where the horn plate is not configured to move axially relative to the guide shaft during horn activation.

In the present disclosure, the expression“in contact with the rear side of the horn plate" is to be interpreted as covering both direct contact with the horn plate as well as direct contact with a sleeve fixed to the horn plate around the mounting opening for the damper unit.

In the present disclosure, the terms“bonding” or“bonded” are to be interpreted as a connection or attachment between the relevant element and the sleeve or slider preventing the element from falling off from or being easily removed from the sleeve or slider. The term“bonding” is thus to be interpreted as an attachment or connection ensuring that the relevant element, as an integral part of the damper unit from an assembly perspective, is being held by the bond in its intended position on the slider. In embodiments where an element can easily be removed from the slider or easily fall of from the slider, such as a cylindrical damper element having a central bore in which a guide shaft is received without any mechanical bonding or adhesion acting in the axial direction, the element is not considered to be“bonded” to the slider although radial movement relative to the slider may be restricted.

In the present disclosure,“mechanically bonded” or“mechanical bonding” is to be interpreted as an alternative to“chemical bonding”. Mechanically bonding should be interpreted as a non-chemical attachment of the relevant element to the slider, ensuring that the relevant element is mechanically maintained in its intended position on the slider.

In the present disclosure, expressions as“chemically bonded”,“chemical bonding”, “adhesion” binding or“adhesion” and the like should be interpreted as an alternative to mechanical bonding. Chemical bonding is considered a bonding between molecules. In some embodiments, mechanical and chemical bonding may be used in combination. A preferred chemical bonding may be adhesion bonding rather than glue. Chemical bonding may be provided during molding. In some embodiments, chemical bonding may be obtained by using an overmolding technique with adhesion bonding between similar or related polymers.

In the present disclosure, the term“snap-locking” and the like should be interpreted as a locking mechanism which results in a locking function as a result of the damper unit being inserted into its final mounting opening. Especially, the term should be interpreted to cover also embodiments where there is not necessarily a distinct “snap” occurring during the insertion but rather a gradual expansion/movement of the snap-lock protrusion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The inventive concept, some non-limiting preferred embodiments, and further advantages of the inventive concept will now be described with reference to the drawings in which:

Fig 1 A illustrates a steering wheel of a vehicle.

Fig. 1 B illustrates main parts of a vibration-reducing assembly.

Fig. 2 is an exploded view of a vibration-reducing assembly.

Figs 3 and 4 are sectional views of the assembly in Fig. 1 B.

Fig. 5 is a side view of the assembly in Fig. 1 B.

Figs 6 and 7 illustrate in larger scale a damper unit mounted in the

assembly in Fig. 2.

Figs 8A to 8D illustrate a slider of a 1 st embodiment of a damper unit

Figs 9A to 9E illustrate a 1 st embodiment of a damper unit

Figs 10A and 10B illustrate a unitary elastomeric body of the damper unit

according to the 1 st embodiment

Figs 1 1 A and 1 1 B illustrate a 2 nd embodiment of a damper unit

Figs 12A and 12B illustrate a 3 rd embodiment of a damper unit

Figs 13A to 13D illustrate a slider of a 4 th embodiment of a damper unit

Figs 14A to 14C illustrate a unitary elastomeric body of the damper unit

according to the 4 th embodiment.

Figs 15A to 15C illustrate the damper unit according to the 4 th embodiment Figs 1 6A to 1 6F illustrate an assembly method using the damper unit according to the 4 th embodiment. Figs 17 A to 17 C illustrate a horn activation of an assembly including damper units according to the 4 th embodiment

Figs 18A to 18C illustrate a unitary elastomeric body of a damper unit

according to a 5 th embodiment.

Figs 19A to 19C illustrate a damper unit according to the 5 th embodiment Figs 20A to 20F illustrate an assembly method using the damper unit according to the 5 th embodiment.

Fig 21 illustrates an alternative assembly method using the damper unit according to the 5 th embodiment.

Fig. 22 is a cross section of the 5 th embodiment.

Figs 23A to 23C illustrate a horn activation of an assembly including damper units according to the 5 th embodiment.

Figs 24A to 24C show a damper unit according to a further inventive concept.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present inventive concept relates in general to the field of frequency-tuned vibration dampers, also referred to as dynamic dampers. Such dampers may be used to dampen vibrations in a vibrating surface or structure, such as a vibrating component like a steering wheel of a motor vehicle. A dynamic vibration damper comprises a mass acting as a vibration body, and at least one elastic damper element. The mass and the least one elastic damper element together provide a dampened spring-mass system, and may be connected to the vibrating structure, optionally by means of an intermediary component.

The weight of the mass, and the stiffness and damping of the elastic damping element are selected to provide a damping effect on the vibrating structure, which can be expected to vibrate at one or more predetermined target frequencies. When the vibrating structure vibrates at a target frequency, the mass is caused to oscillate/resonate at the same frequency as the structure but out of phase, such that the vibration of the structure is substantially dampened. The mass may vibrate with an amplitude substantially greater than the vibration amplitude of the vibrating structure. The present inventive concept relates to a damper unit for use in such a dynamic damper assembly arranged in a steering wheel of a vehicle for dampening steering wheel vibrations. 1 st embodiment

Fig. 1 A illustrates a steering wheel 2 in a motor vehicle 4. Vibrations from the road and the engine may be transferred to the steering wheel 2. These steering wheel vibrations may be perpendicular to the steering column, as indicated by up-down and left-right arrows. The steering wheel 2 is provided with a vibration-reducing assembly 6, which is schematically indicated by a dashed box inside the steering wheel 2 and which is configured to dynamically dampen at least some of the steering wheel vibrations.

As known in the art, the steering wheel 2 is also provided with a horn activation mechanism for activating a horn (not shown) of the vehicle 4. To this end, a horn activation pad 8 is arranged in the center of the steering wheel 2 to be pressed by the driver upon horn activation. When the driver releases the horn activation pad 8, the horn activation mechanism returns to its non-activated or initial state by means of one or more horn springs. In the illustrated embodiment, the horn activation mechanism is of mechanical type. There exist horn activation mechanisms of electronic design also, not including horn springs.

Furthermore, an airbag assembly may be arranged inside the steering wheel 2 under the horn activation pad 8. Fig. 1 B schematically shows a part 10 of a gas generator of an airbag assembly. In the present embodiment, the weight of the airbag assembly is used as at least part of the total weight of the mass used in the vibration-reducing spring-mass system. Thereby, the use of separate deadweights for this purpose may be avoided or substantially reduced.

The vibration-reducing assembly 6 inside the steering wheel 2 is arranged on and supported by a base structure or armature 12 fixed to the steering wheel 2. The vibrations in the steering wheel 2 are thus present in the base structure 12 also, as indicated by vibrations V in Fig. 7 perpendicular to the steering column. The vibration-reducing assembly 6 comprises a horn plate 14 on which the airbag assembly is mounted, including the gas generator and the airbag. In a preferred embodiment, the horn plate 14 is made of metal and is optionally provided with a plastic cover made of a relatively rigid plastic material molded on the horn plate 14, including a top cover 1 6 and a bottom cover 18. The horn plate 14 is provided with three openings, each arranged to receive part of a damper unit 40 as will be described below. In the illustrated embodiment, a cylindrical sleeve 20 is arranged around each opening in the horn plate 14 and extends above the plane of the horn plate 14. The sleeves 20 may by molded in one piece with the plastic cover 1 6, 18, thus being rigidly connected to the horn plate 14. In other embodiments, the sleeves 20 may be dispensed with.

As shown in Fig. 2, the base structure 12 may comprise three supports 13, projecting towards the horn plate 14 and each provided with a threaded bolt hole. A separate bracket 22 is supported on the supports 13. The bracket 22 has a through opening or mounting opening 24 aligned with each support 13. Adjacent each mounting opening 24, the bracket 22 presents a horn spring support surface 26 facing the horn plate 14, and on the opposite side a bracket support surface 28 facing the base support 12. In the assembled state (Fig. 7), the bracket 22 is supported at the bracket support surfaces 28 by the supports 13.

The bracket 22 is a multi-function bracket for supporting various components, and may especially comprise parts of the horn switch mechanism of the steering wheel 2, here in the form of four contact studs 30 which project towards the horn plate 14 and are aligned with corresponding contact pads 15 protruding from the bottom side of the horn plate 14. As shown in Fig. 5, the contact studs 30 and the contact pads 15 are normally located at a distance D from each other. Upon horn activation, the horn plate 14 is pressed towards the bracket 22 until the contact pads 15 and the contact studs 30 are brought into electrical engagement for activating the horn, and at the same time a movement stop for the horn plate 14. As an illustrative example, the distance D may be in the order of a few millimeters.

The horn plate 14 with the airbag assembly fixed thereto is movably supported on the base structure 12 via three damper units 40. It may be noted that although this unit is termed“damper unit” in this disclosure, a damper unit 40 provides both a vibration damping function and a separate horn spring function as will be described below. Each damper unit 14 is configured to allow the mass represented at least by the horn plate 14 and the airbag assembly to move (i) perpendicular to the axis A of the damper unit 40 for vibration damping purposes, and (ii) along the main axis A for horn activation purposes. A 1 st embodiment of a damper unit 40 will now be described with reference to Figs 8A to 8D, Figs 9A to 9D, and Figs 10A and 10B.

The damper unit 40 comprises a slider 50, a damper element 70 and a horn spring element 90. In a preferred embodiment, the slider 50, the damper element 70 and the spring element 90 may be bonded together into one unit 40, such that these three components form a unitary structure ready to be connected to the base structure 12 and the horn plate 14. The components 50, 70 and 90 may be mechanically and/or chemically bonded together, in the sense that they cannot easily be taken apart from each other.

Figs 8A to 8D illustrate a 1 st embodiment of the slider 50. The slider 50 may be made from a relatively rigid material, such as a suitable synthetic resin material. In horn activation structures of the mechanical type, the slider is arranged to slide on a guide shaft upon horn activation as will be described below. The slider 50 comprises a tubular element 52 defining a through bore 54 for receiving the guide shaft, and a radially extending flange 56. The flange 56 divides the tubular element 52 into a first tubular part 58 on one side of the flange 56, and a second tubular part 60 on the axially opposite side of the flange 56. In the illustrated embodiment, the first tubular part 58 is longer than the second tubular part 60. The flange 56 presents one or more locking openings here in the form of a plurality of axially oriented through holes 62 used for mechanically bonding the damper element 40 and the horn spring element 90 together and to the slider 50. The flange 56 also serves to take up spring forces from the horn spring element 90, and to transfer axial forces between the slider 50 and the damper element 70.

Reference is now made to Fig. 9A to 9E illustrating a 1 st embodiment complete damper unit 40. The elastic damper element 70 is arranged on the first slider part 58. The elastic damper element 70 is made of an elastomeric material, such as silicone rubber, suitable for use as the elastic spring element in a dynamic damper. The damper element 70 is configured to operate together with the mass represented by at least the airbag module and the horn plate 14 as a spring-mass system forming a frequency-tuned dynamic vibration damper for dampening the vibrations V in the base structure 12 and the steering wheel 2.

In the illustrated embodiment, the damper element 70 has a general cylindrical shape with a distal end 71 facing away from the flange 56, a proximal end 72 facing towards the flange 56, and an outer engagement surface 75. As an illustrative, but non-limiting example the axial length of the damper element can be in the order of 7 mm. In the final vibration-reducing assembly as shown in Fig. 7, the outer engagement surface 75 of each damper element 70 is in engagement with an inner engagement surface 21 of an associated sleeve 20 on the horn plate 14 for transferring vibrations to the horn plate 14. In the illustrated embodiment, the axial length of the damper element 70 corresponds essentially to the axial length of the first slider part 58 but extends axially a short distance beyond the distal end of the first slider part 58. The proximal end 72 of the damper element 70 is in contact with the flange 56. The distal end 71 of the damper element 70 has an increased outer diameter for forming a radially outward extending ring-shaped snap-lock protrusion 73. The proximal end 72 of the damper element 70 has an even larger diameter and is arranged to extend under the horn plate 14 in the assembly 6. The proximal end 72 may present an upwardly directed support ring 74 defined by a ring-shaped groove 76 for reasons that will be explained below.

In the illustrated 1 st embodiment, the damper element 70 is divided into a plurality of axially extending ribs 77 (Fig. 9D), which are circumferentially distributed about the axis A of the damper unit 40 and which define spaces 78 there between. The radially outer surfaces of the ribs 77 together form the outer engagement surface 75 of the damper element 70. The operation and advantages obtained by the ribs 77 and the spaces 78 will be explained below. In other embodiments, the damper element 40 may have the form of a circumferentially unbroken cylinder defining a continuous outer engagement surface.

The horn spring element 90 of the damper unit 40 is arranged on a second part of the slider 50, in this embodiment on the axially opposite side of the flange 56 on the second tubular part 60 and also on part of the flange 56. The horn spring element 90 is made from an elastomeric material and comprises a horn spring part 94 and an attachment part 92 (Fig. 9C), which are molded from an elastomeric material in one piece with each other. During molding of the horn spring element 90, at least the attachment part 92 thereof is molded on the slider 50 such that the horn spring element 90 is correctly positioned on the slider 50 when being manufactured.

As best shown in Fig. 9C, the attachment part 92 of the horn spring element 90 has an L-shaped cross section with one leg in contact with the shorter tubular part 60 of the slider 50 and one leg in contact with the flange 56. In other embodiments, the shorter tubular part 60 is dispensed with and the attachment part 92 may engage the flange 56 only. The elastomeric material used for the horn spring element 90 may be any elastomeric material suitable to provide the aimed-at horn spring function, depending on the required spring constant. In a preferred embodiment, the material comprises silicone rubber. The same elastomeric material may be used for molding the damper element 40 and the horn spring element 90, especially if these elements are molded in one piece with each other. In the illustrated first embodiment, the horn spring part 94 is bellow-shaped in order to provide the spring action in the direction of the axis A. Other embodiments may have a different spring design, relying in part or only on compression rather than flexing as in the bellow-shaped design. The spring constant may be varied by varying one or more parameters of the horn spring part 94, such as the material, the axial length, the diameter, the wall thickness, and the bellow-design (angles, etc.). It may also be possible to use a“broken” design presenting openings and/or separate spring legs, which also would present further tuning options for the spring characteristics.

In the final vibration-reducing assembly 6, the molded horn spring part 94 is configured to act as a horn spring in the direction of the axis A, to exert a spring force on the horn plate 14 via the slider 50 and the damper element 40. The spring force will be present for returning the horn plate 14 when the horn activation is terminated. Due to the pre-compression of the horn spring part 94, the spring force is present as a biasing spring force in the non-activated state also. An advantage obtained thereby, is that the spring force generated by the horn spring may be available earlier as the driver operates the horn.

In the illustrated first embodiment, the horn spring element 90 is molded directly on the slider 50, avoiding the need to manufacture a metal spiral spring separately, and to attach and/or align such a separate metal spiral spring in relation to the slider during the assembly. At present, overmolding is considered a preferred molding method, but other techniques may also be considered, such as 2K injection molding where both the slider 50 and the elastomeric components are manufactured using one single 2K injection molding machine. Although not presently preferred, different molding techniques may be used for the damper element 70 and the horn spring element 90. In preferred embodiments, the horn spring element 90 is not only molded on the slider 50 but is also bonded to the slider 50. The bonding may be mechanical (including frictional bonding) and/or chemical. In the illustrated 1 st embodiment, the horn spring element 90 is mechanically bonded to the slider 50 in order to keep the horn spring element 90 in the illustrated position on the slider 50. This is achieved by a plurality of elastomeric locking elements 100, which are molded in one piece with the horn spring element 90 and which are in locking engagement with the locking openings 62 in the flange 56. In the illustrated embodiment, the damper element 40 also is mechanically bonded to the slider 50 to keep the damper element 40 in the illustrated position on the slider 50. This is also achieved by the locking elements 100. In the preferred embodiment, the same locking elements 100 are used for bonding both the horn spring element 90 and the damper element 40, such that the elastomeric horn spring element 90, the elastomeric damper element 40 and the locking elements 100 are molded together as one unitary body, mechanically bonded to the slider 50 by the through openings 62. For explanatory purposes only, this unitary elastomeric body 70, 90, 100 is shown without the slider 50 in Figs 10A and 10B. In this embodiment, there may also be a frictional bonding between the elastomeric elements 70, 90 and the tubular parts of the slider 50.

In some embodiments, one or both of the damper element 40 and the horn spring element 90 may be chemically bonded to the slider 50 by adhesion. It is also possible to use both mechanical bonding as disclosed in the drawings, and chemical adhesion, for one or both of the damper element 40 and the horn spring element 90. The chemical adhesion may be implemented during molding. It is also possible to rely on frictional bonding, only or in part. Frictional bonding may be obtained by a post-molding shrinking of the elastomeric material.

A method for assembling the vibration-reducing assembly 6 using a number of damper units 40 according to the 1 st embodiment will now be described with reference to Figs 2 to 7. The sequence or order of steps as described here may be varied. As a first step, the bracket 22 may be placed upon the supports 13 of the base structure 12. As a second step, each damper unit 40, including the slider 50 and the ribbed-shaped damper element 70 forming a unitary structure, may be inserted from below in Fig. 2 into an associated mounting opening 24 of the horn plate 14.

It should be noted that slider 50 and the elastomeric damper element 70 of each damper unit 40 are inserted together as a unit and from one side only of the horn plate 14. During insertion of the damper element 70, the radially outer engagement surface 75 of the damper element 70 is brought into engagement with the inner engagement surface 21 of the corresponding sleeve 20, such that steering wheel vibrations V may be transferred from the damper element 70 to the horn plate 14. Preferably, the radial dimensions are selected such that the damper element 70 is somewhat radially compressed between the slider 50 and the inner engagement surface 21 of the sleeve 20.

During the insertion of the damper element 70, the support ring 74 integrally formed with the damper element 70 will engage the bottom side of the horn plate 14 as shown in Fig. 7, defining the final insertion position. During the insertion of the damper element 70, the upper snap-lock protrusion 73 of the damper element 70 will be temporarily compressed in order to pass the sleeve 20. In the final position, the snap-lock protrusion 73 will extend over the upper edge of the sleeve 20. Thereby, the support ring 74 and the snap-lock protrusion 73 will together ensure that the damper element 70 is held correctly axially positioned/locked in relation to the horn plate 14. No separate locking elements are needed, and the axial locking is automatically obtained during the one-sided insertion of the damper unit. It will also be noted that an axial distal part of the elastomeric damper element 70 in this 1 st embodiment will extend axially beyond the distal edge of the sleeve 20.

When the damper elements 70 have been correctly positioned in the horn plate 14, a bolt 120 may be inserted into the bore 54 of each slider 50. Each bolt 120 has a bolt head 126, a cylindrical guide shaft 122 and a threaded end 124. The tubular part 52 of the slider 50 may slide along the guide shaft 122. As shown in Fig. 7, the bolts 120 are secured in the bolt holes of the supports 13 of the base structure 12. During the final fastening of each bolt 120, a pre-compression of the corresponding horn spring part 94 is obtained. As a non-limiting example, a horn spring part may be pre-compressed from 10 mm to 7 mm during assembly and then further compressed one or a few mm upon horn activation. In the final assembly, the distal end 95 of each horn spring part 94 engages the associated horn spring support surface 26 of the bracket 22. In the final assembled state, the bolt head 126 is in axially engagement with the upper end 71 of the elastomeric damper element 70, with the snap-lock protrusion 73 projecting between the sleeve 20 and the bolt head 126. It will be understood that the disclosed method of making the damper unit 40 and assembling a vibration-reducing assembly using the inventive damper units 40 may provide substantial advantages in terms of manufacturing cost and time, but also in terms of quality. Compared with the prior art where a number of individual parts have to be manufactured, handled and assembled, the inventive concept makes it possible to establish - at each damper unit 40 - both the damper function and the horn spring function using one unitary damper unit 40 only, together with a simple bolt 120, compared to the prior art where a number of different components must be handled and assembled, often from different sides of the horn plate 14.

The operation of the horn activation mechanism of the assembly 6 is as follows: When the horn mechanism is not activated by the driver, each pre-compressed or biased horn spring part 94 presses against the flange 56 of the slider 50, urging the slider 50 upwards in a direction away from the base structure 12. The axial spring force is transferred via the flange 56 to the damper element 70, and via the support ring 74 to the horn plate 14. It will here be noted that the bolt 120 has multiple functions: the bolt 120 provides the guide shaft 122 for the axial movement of the slider 50 during horn activation; the bolt head 126 defines an upper axial stop for the axial movement of the damper unit 40, and the bolt head 126 assists in locking the damper unit 40 in place in relation to the horn plate 14 by pressing on the top of the damper element 70.

In the illustrated embodiment, the distal end 71 of the damper element 70 extends a short distance beyond the upper edge of the sleeve 20, whereby the upper stop position of the damper unit 40 is defined by a soft engagement between the end 71 of the damper element 70 and the bolt head 120.

Upon horn activation, when the driver presses the horn pad 8 on the steering wheel 2, the horn plate 14 is pressed towards the base structure 12. The force is transferred via the damper element 40 to the slider 50, which is thereby displaced along the guide shaft 122 compressing the horn spring part 94 further in the axial direction until the distance D in Fig. 5 is reduced to zero and the horn switch 15, 30 is closed. When the pressure on the horn pad 8 is released, the horn spring part 94 will return the horn plate 14 to its normal position, whereby the soft engagement between the elastomeric end portion 71 and the bolt head 124 provides a“soft” stop.

The vibration damping function of the assembly 6 is as follows: Steering wheel vibrations V (Fig. 7) occurring in the steering wheel 2 and the base structure 12 are transferred via the bolts 120 and the sliders 50 to the elastomeric damper elements 70. The elastomeric damper elements 70 transfer the steering wheel vibrations V to the horn plate 14 via the sleeves 20, thereby causing the mass (represented by the weight of the horn plate, the airbag assembly and any other details supported by the horn plate 14) to vibrate out of phase such that the vibrations V in the steering wheel 2 are dynamically dampened. During the vibration dampening, the radial compression of the elastomeric material of the damper elements 70 will vary. Thanks to the ribbed design of the damper elements 70, the elastomeric material may expand into the spaces 78 between the ribs 77 during vibration. This design gives an advantageous more linear relation between the damper compression and the spring constant of the damper element 70. In a non-ribbed, solid cylinder of elastomeric material, the material has no such“escape”, resulting in a more non linear spring constant, making the dynamic dampening function less efficient because matching the target frequency will be more difficult. A further advantage obtained by the ribbed configuration is an increased flexibility in the frequency tuning during design and manufacturing. The dampening frequency of the assembly may be tuned by varying one or more parameters such as the number of ribs 77, the circumferential, radial, and/or axial dimensions of the ribs 77 and the spaces 78 between the ribs 77. Thus, one may use thicker or thinner ribs, longer or shorter ribs in the axial direction, longer or shorter ribs in the radial direction, etc. Also, the frequency interval within which the damper element 70 is tunable may be shifted and/or expanded by using a ribbed configuration compared to prior-art damper elements.

During the vibration damping operation, the horn plate 14 will thus be caused to move in directions perpendicular to the axis A, especially in relation to the lower or proximal part 72 of the damper element 70 supporting the horn plate 14 in the axial direction. Since the radially moving horn plate 14 at its rear side is in direct contact with the surface of the lower part 72, such radial movements of the horn plate 14 may give rise to unwanted frictional movements and silicone wear at the interface between the bottom side of the horn plate 14 and the damper element 70 at reference numeral 74 in Fig. 7. Also, this direct axial contact between the lower part 72 of the damper element 70 and the rear side of the horn plate 14 may influence the damping function (tuning) in a negative way. This is the reason for providing the ring shaped groove 76. Thereby, the support ring 74 will be more free to move in the left-right direction in Fig. 7, together with a left-right movement of the horn plate 14 during damping, resulting in less frictional movements between the horn plate 14 and the damper element 70, and also resulting in a“de-coupling” of the vibration dampening from the contact between damper element part 70 and the rear side of the horn plate 14.

2 nd embodiment

Figs 1 1 A and 1 1 B illustrate a 2 nd embodiment of a damper unit 240. Same reference numerals are used as in the first embodiment above, but in a 200-series. Although the solution with the ring 74 and the ring-shaped groove 76 as described in the preceding paragraph may be advantageous, it will be noted that the added movability is obtained in the vibration direction only. If for instance the vibrations V are directed left-right in Fig. 7, then the parts of the support ring 74 shown to the left and to the right in Fig. 7 would be free to move with the horn plate 12 due to the groove 76. Flowever, at different circumferential locations on the support ring 74 facing towards and away from the reader in Fig. 7, such left-right movement will not be allowed by the groove 76.

In order to address this problem, the bottom part 271 of the damper element 270 according to the 2 nd embodiment may be designed as shown in Figs 1 1 A and 1 1 B.The support ring 74 in the 1 st embodiment is divided in the circumferential direction into a number of individual support studs 274 with spaces 279 there between in the circumferential direction. Compared to the ring design 74, the individual support studs 274 will be more flexible in all radial directions. This design will allow the support studs 274, which are in engagement with the rear side of the horn plate 14, to move together with the horn plate 14 during vibration damping, both radially and circumferentially in relation to the axis A without substantially affecting the vibration damping operation. This design allows the support studs 274 to better follow the movement of the horn plate 14. In order to obtain a uniform movability in all directions, the support studs 274 may preferably have a circular cross section, i.e. essentially same dimensions in all directions perpendicular to the axis A.

3 rd embodiment

Figs 12A and 12B illustrate a third embodiment of a spring unit 340 for use in situations where different dampening properties are required in different directions. Same reference numerals are used as above, but in a 300-series. Support studs 374 and spaces 376 are arranged as in the 2 nd embodiment. In the 3 rd embodiment, the elastomeric damper element 370 of the spring unit 340 has a non-circular configuration, such as an oval or elliptic configuration. As shown in Fig. 12B, the non-circular damper element 370 is received in a corresponding non-circular opening 321 in the horn plate 14. By this no-circular design, the assembly may present different tuning frequencies in the vertical and the horizontal direction in Fig. 12B.

4 th embodiment

Figs 15A to 15C illustrate a 4 th embodiment of a damper unit 440. The same reference numerals are used as above, but in a 400-series. The slider 450 of the damper unit 440 is shown in Figs 13A to 13D. The elastomeric damper element 470 of the damper unit 440 is shown in Figs 14A to 14C. Everything stated above for the previous embodiments regarding the manufacture, optional bonding, function, material, etc. applies to this 4th embodiment 440 also in all relevant parts. The base structure 12, the bracket 22 and the horn plate 14 have been drawn schematically in the figures showing the resulting damper assembly.

Like in the 2 nd embodiment, the damper element 470 of the damper unit 440 according to the 4 th embodiment is divided into a plurality of axially extending ribs 477, which are circumferentially distributed about the axis A of the damper unit 440 and which define spaces 478 there between. The operation and advantages of the ribs as described above will apply in all relevant aspect to this 4 th embodiment also. However, this 4 th embodiment of the damper unit 440 presents some additional features. In the 4 th embodiment, and as seen in the direction of the axis A, each rib 477 has proximal rib part 477a forming the vibration damping part of the rib 477, and a distal rib part 477b not primarily taking part in the vibration damping operation (Figs 14A to 14C). The proximal rib part 477a has an outer radial surface 475 extending in parallel with the axis A. The radially outer surfaces 475 of the ribs 477 together form the outer engagement surface of the damper element 470. In the final assembly, the proximal rib part 477a will be held in a slightly compressed state in the radial direction as described above. The distal rib part 477b has a radially outward extending snap-lock protrusion 473 for snap-locking purposes, similar to the snap- lock protrusion 73 in the 1 st embodiment. The snap-lock protrusion 473 presents a proximal inclined locking surface 473a and a distal inclined insertion surface 473b. Furthermore, in the illustrated 4 th embodiment, there may be a gap 473c in the radial direction between the distal rib part 477b and the tubular element 458 of the slider 450. In other embodiments, this radial gap 473c may be dispensed with.

The horn spring element 490 of the damper unit 440 is arranged on the opposite side of the slider flange 456 on the lower tubular part 460 of the slider 450. What stated above in the 1 st embodiment regarding the structure, the manufacturing, alternatives, and the operation of the horn spring element 90 applies to the horn spring element 490 in this 4 th embodiment in all relevant aspects. In the illustrated embodiment, the horn spring element 490 is molded in one piece with the elastomeric damper element 470 on the slider 450 as in the 1 st embodiment, with elastomeric locking elements 100 extending through openings 462 in the slider flange 456. In this embodiment, a portion 101 of the elastomeric material also extends radially outside the outer rim of the slider flange 456. In alternative embodiments, the damper element 470 and the horn spring element 490 may be held together in one piece by locking elements 100 only or by the portion 101 only. For explanatory purposes only, this unitary elastomeric body 470,4 90, 100 is shown without the slider 450 in Figs 14A and 14C. In this embodiment, there may also be a frictional bonding between the elastomeric elements 470, 490 and the tubular parts of the slider 450

In the 4 th embodiment, and as shown in Figs 14A to 14C and Figs 15A to 15D, the elastomeric damper element 470 is provided with a first set of individual support studs 474a and a second set of individual support studs 474b. The support studs 474a in the first set are located slightly closer in the axial direction to the distal insertion end of the damper unit by an amount D compared to the support studs 474b in the second set. As a non-limiting example, the value of D may be in the order of one or a few millimeters. In the illustrated embodiment, the support studs 474a, 474b of the two sets are interlaced in the circumferential direction. The support studs 474a, 474b are spaced from each other in the circumferential direction and spaced from the slider in the radial direction in order to be flexible in all directions transverse to the axis A. In preferred embodiment as shown, the support studs 474b in the second set are larger than the support studs 474a in the first set in that they have a larger cross-section perpendicular to the axis A. In the following, these different studs will be referred to as the smaller support studs 474a and the larger support studs 474b. In the illustrated embodiment, the smaller support studs 474a have a circular cross-section and the larger support studs 474b have an elongate cross-section. The design and shape of the support studs 474a and 474b may vary from the example. The smaller support studs 474a have essentially the same function as the support studs 274 in the 2 nd embodiment, i.e. they ensure that the contact or interface between the supporting studs and the rear side of the horn plate 14 is flexible in the radial plane in order not to interfere with the vibration damping. The function of the larger studs 474b will be explained below.

Figs 16A to 16E illustrate a method for assembling a vibration damper assembly 6 (Fig. 1 6F) comprising three damper units 440 according to the 4 th embodiment. Fig. 16A illustrates a damper unit 440 to be inserted from below into one of three openings in a horn plate 14. As in the previous embodiments, the slider 450 and the elastomeric damper element 470 of each damper unit 440 are inserted together and from one side only of the horn plate 14. In the illustrated embodiment, each opening of the horn plate 14 is provided with a sleeve 20. The sleeve is preferably made of a relatively rigid material, such as a rigid plastic material molded to the horn plate. One function of the sleeve 20 is to provide an axially extended engagement surface for the damper element 470. Another function of the sleeve 20 is to protect the elastomeric damper element 470 from damage during assembly and during operation.

As shown in Fig. 16B, the inner radial dimension of the sleeve is selected such that the distal inclined insertion surfaces 473b of the ribs 477 will guide the damper unit 440 into the opening and also assist in pressing or forcing the elastomeric damper element 470 through the opening.

Fig. 16C illustrates how the snap-lock protrusions 473 of the ribs 477 will be pressed radially inwards as the damper unit 440 is moved through the opening of the sleeve 20. This radial movement may be possible due to an inwardly radial bending of the distal rib parts 477b and/or due to a radial compression of the snap-lock protrusions 473.

Fig. 1 6D illustrates the final mounted position of the damper unit 440 in relation to the horn plate 14. The final position is defined by an insertion position where the smaller support studs 474a are brought to engagement with the underside of the sleeve 20. The engagement may also be directly with the rear side of the horn plate 14. When the damper unit 440 has been fully inserted to its final position, the snap- lock protrusions 473 of the ribs 477 will snap radially outwards as shown by arrows in Fig. 1 6D. The proximal inclined locking surface 473b of each rib 477 will now be in a locking engagement with the upper side of a snap-lock protrusion of the sleeve 20 to lock the damper unit 440 in place. The damper unit 440 is now held axially in its final position by the elastomeric damper element 470, namely by the smaller support studs 474a on the one hand, and the snap-lock protrusions 473 on the other hand. The larger support studs 474b are not in use at this stage.

As described above for the 1 st embodiment, during insertion of the damper element 470, the radially outer engagement surfaces 475 of the proximal rib parts 477a are brought into engagement with the inner engagement surface 21 of the corresponding sleeve 20, such that steering wheel vibrations V may be transferred from the damper element 470 to the horn plate 14. In order to achieve a proper vibration damping effect, the radial dimensions are preferably selected such that the damper element 470 is somewhat radially pre-compressed between the slider 450 and the inner engagement surface 21 of the sleeve 20 as a result of the insertion.

When the damper elements 470 have been correctly positioned in the horn plate 14, a bolt 120 may be inserted into the bore 454 of each slider 450 as shown in Fig. 16E. Each bolt 120 has a bolt head 126, a cylindrical guide shaft 122 and a threaded end 124. The tubular part 452 of the slider 450 may slide along the guide shaft 122. The bolts 120 are secured in bolt holes of the supports 13 of the base structure 12. During the final fastening of each bolt 120 (Fig. 1 6F), a pre-compression of the corresponding horn spring part 494 is obtained. As a non-limiting example, a horn spring part 494 may be pre-compressed from 10 mm to 7 mm during assembly and then further compressed one or a few millimeters upon horn activation. In the final assembly 6, the distal end 495 of each horn spring part 494 engages the associated horn spring support surface 26 of the bracket 22.

As illustrated in the enlarged-scale view in Fig. 1 6F, during the final fastening of each bolt 120, the bolt head 126 may engage and axially compress the ribs 477 until the distal ends of the ribs 477 are in level with the distal end of the slider 450. As illustrated with arrows in Fig. 1 6F, this final compression will lock the snap-lock protrusions 473 or the ribs 477 tighter to the sleeve 20 and thereby fix the damper unit 440 even more securely in the axial direction in relation to the horn plate 14. In other embodiments, such a final compression may be dispensed with.

The operation of the larger/stiffer support studs 474b will now be described with reference to Figs 17A to 17C. Before the driver activates the horn (Fig. 17A), the rear side of each sleeve 20 is in contact with the smaller support studs 474a only, with an axial gap D being present between the rear side of the sleeve 20 and the larger support studs 474b.

Fig. 17B illustrates an initial stage of horn activation, where the driver has just initiated the horn activation by pressing the horn activation pad 8. The horn plate 14 has now moved axially a distance D. The small support studs 474a have been axially compressed due to their relatively small cross-sectional dimension. Therefore, the compression of the horn spring 494 has not yet started. When the small support studs 474a have been axially compressed to a degree where they have the same axial height as the larger support studs 474b, the rear side of the sleeve 20 will have contact with both the smaller support studs 474a and the larger support studs 474b, as shown in the enlarged scale view in Fig. 17B. The distance D is now eliminated. Accordingly, selecting small dimensions for the first set of support studs 474a has the advantage of both ensuring a flexible interface and ensuring an axial compression upon horn activation.

Fig. 17C illustrates the subsequent stage of horn activation. When the distance D towards the larger support studs 474b has been eliminated, the total axial stiffness of all the support studs 474a and 474b in combination will now be sufficient for the horn spring part 494 to be compressed when the driver presses the horn activation pad 8. For illustration purposes only, Fig. 17C shows the movement of the horn plate 14 and the compression of the horn spring in a very exaggerated scale. In reality, this movement may be in the order of one or few millimeters only.

A specific advantage obtained by this design including support studs 474a and 474b having different distance to the horn plate (in this design obtained by having different heights), and optionally with different axial stiffness, is that two advantageous properties may be obtained at the same time, one relating to the vibration damping and one relating to horn activation. With regard to vibration damping, a radially flexible interface is preferred between the elastomeric material and the rear side of the sleeve 20 or horn plate 14. With regard to horn activation, an axially stiff interface is preferred at the same location in order to initiate the horn spring compression as soon as possible when the driver presses the pad 8. This “dilemma” is solved by providing the different support studs 474a and 474b, creating a“dynamic” support interface.

On the one hand, when no horn activation is present, the rear side of the horn plate 14 is supported by the relatively flexible smaller support studs 474a only. This has the advantage that the interface between the elastomeric material and the rear side of the horn plate 14 does not interfere with the vibration damping function. The larger support studs 474b are inactive when no horn activation is present. On the other hand, when horn activation is initiated, it is preferred that a fully developed horn spring force is obtained as soon as possible. Thanks to the presence of the larger and relatively stiff support studs 474b, and the relatively low axial stiffness of the smaller support studs 474a, the distance D can be very quickly eliminated when horn activation is initiated by axially compression of the smaller support studs 474a, such that the desired axially stiff interface can be established despite that the interface is flexible during normal vibration damping.

5 th embodiment

Figs 19A to 19C illustrate a 5 th embodiment of a damper unit 540. The same reference numerals are used as above, but in a 500 series. The slider of the damper unit 540 has the same design as the slider 450 in the 4 th embodiment shown in Figs 13A to 13D. The damper element 570 of the damper unit 540 is shown in Figs 18A to 18C. Everything stated for the previous embodiments regarding the manufacture, optional bonding, function, assembly, material, ribs, support studs, alternatives, etc. applies to this 5 th embodiment 540 also in all relevant parts.

The 5 th embodiment or the damper unit 540 differs from the 4 th embodiment of the damper unit 440 in that the damper unit 550 in the 5 th embodiment does not have an integrally formed horn spring element made from a molded elastomeric material. Instead, separate horn springs 594 are used. The horn springs 594 may be spiral springs as shown and may typically be made from metal. In the illustrated embodiment, the slider 550 is provided with a ring-shaped groove 556a in its lower or rear end for receiving a distal end of a horn spring 590, as shown in Fig. 20B.

Figs 20A to 20E illustrate a first embodiment of a method for assembling a vibration damper assembly 6 (Fig. 20F) comprising three damper units 540 according to the 5 th embodiment. Fig. 20A illustrates a damper unit 540 to be inserted from below into one of three mounting openings in a horn plate 14. As in the previous embodiments, the slider 550 and the elastomeric damper element 570 of each damper unit 540 are inserted together and from one side only of the horn plate 14. In the illustrated embodiment, each mounting opening of the horn plate 14 is provided with a sleeve 20. The sleeve 20 is preferably made of a relatively rigid material, such as a rigid plastic material molded to the horn plate. One function of the sleeve 20 is to provide an axially extended engagement surface for the damper element 570. Another function of the sleeve 20 is to protect the elastomeric damper element 570 from damage during assembly and during operation. In this embodiment, each separate horn spring 594 has been connected to its associated damper unit 540 before the damper unit 540 is inserted into the horn plate 14. In some embodiments, the radial dimensions of the horn spring 594 and the ring- shaped groove 556a may be selected such that the end of the horn spring 594 may be maintained fixed in the groove 556a during assembly. The advantages relating to 1 -sided mounting as described above applies to this embodiment also.

Figs 21 A illustrates a second embodiment of a method for assembling a vibration damper assembly 6 comprising three damper units 540 according to the 5 th embodiment. In this embodiment, each damper unit 540 is mounted to the horn plate 14 as described above, but without the separate horn springs 594 attached to the damper units 540. The horn springs 594 are placed separately from the damper units 540 on the bracket surfaces 26 of bracket 22. Thereafter, as shown in Fig. 21 , the horn plate 14 with the mounted damper units 540 is placed upon the horn springs 594. Finally, the bolts 120 are inserted and tightened as described above for the other embodiments.

Alternatives

The embodiments described above and as shown in the figures may be varied in many ways.

In the illustrated embodiments, the horn activation mechanism is mechanical. Horn activation is accomplished by moving the horn plate 14 towards the bracket 22 by sliding the sliders along the bolt shafts. During horn activation, the horn spring is compressed. When the driver releases the horn activation pad 8, the horn spring (elastomeric or metal) will return the horn plate 14 to its default position. In other embodiments, the horn activation mechanism may be electronic. In such embodiments, the horn plate 14 does not have to be moved towards the base structure 12. Instead, the horn is activated by other means, including electronic contacts. However, there is still a need for vibration damping, and the horn plate may be connected to the base structure 12 via damper units as described, but without use of any horn springs. In such embodiments, the slider will actually not act as a slider designed to slide on the bolt shaft during horn activation. Instead, the slider part would rather be a mounting sleeve in which the bolts are inserted to mount the damper unit. Since no sliding movement is present, there is no need for any horn springs. In such embodiments, the radial slider flange may also be dispensed with.

In the illustrated embodiments, the guide shaft is part of a bolt screwed into the vibrating base structure. The guide shaft may be implemented differently, for instance by a guide shaft made in one piece with the vibrating structure and optionally with a free threaded end for securing the assembly by a nut. Also, it may in some embodiments be possible to have the bolt oriented the opposite direction, i.e. to be screwed into the horn plate instead.

In alternative embodiments, the sleeves 20 of the horn plate are dispensed with and the damper elements are connected to the horn plate 14 in a different way, optionally in direct contact with the horn plate 14. The second tubular portion of the slider may in other embodiments extend further into the horn spring part, but preferably not all the way in order to allow movement of the slider upon horn activation. In some embodiment, the second tubular portion is dispensed with and the horn spring element is attached to the slider in some other way, such as to the flange only.

In some embodiments, the outer engagement surface of the damper element may extend substantially 360 degrees circumferentially around the axis of the damper unit, such that vibrations may be transferred in essentially all radial directions. Such embodiments are considered to include ribbed designs also, where the outer engagement surface is not continuous in the circumferential direction.

In other embodiments, the outer engagement surface of the damper element may be present in some directions only if the damper unit is configured to transfer vibrations in some specific directions only. This may be implemented in various ways, such as by arranging inner protruding parts in the mounting opening of the horn plate defining circumferentially limited inner engagement surfaces, such as inner protruding parts on the sleeves. This may also be implemented by designing the elastomeric damper element with engagement surfaces in some directions only. In such embodiments where one single damper unit is arranged to transfer vibrations in specific directions only, the complete assembly may comprise a number of damper units arranged to handle vibrations in different directions. As an example, One or more damper units may be configured to dampen vibrations in a vertical direction and one or more other damper units may be configured to dampen vibrations in a horizontal direction.

In alternative embodiments, the slider and the corresponding channels or bores of the elastomeric elements may have a non-circular cross-section, for instance if different damping properties in different directions are desired and the damper unit therefore has to be oriented in a specific way on the guide shaft.

Further inventive concept

According to a further inventive concept, there is provided a damper unit as described in any of the preceding embodiments, but without any sleeve or slider. Figs 24A to 24C illustrate such an alternative. The figures are identical to Figs. 18A to 18C except that the slider and the bottom part of the elastomeric element has been removed. Such a damper unit may be made manufactured and also assembled as a single, one-piece elastomeric damper element comprising one or more of the structures and functions as described above. The elastomeric damper element may thus have an integrally formed horn spring, or no horn spring at all. The locking procedure, optionally using the bolt head as described above for compression, may also be used. In mounting the damper unit, a bolt may be introduced through a central channel or hole in of the elastomeric damper unit and optionally be in direct contact with a radially inner surface of the elastomeric damper unit.

According to this further inventive concept, there may be provided a damper unit for use in a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly for a steering wheel, said damper unit having an insertion end and an opposite rear end, and being configured to be inserted with its insertion end through a mounting opening provided in a horn plate of said damper assembly,

said damper unit comprising an elastomeric damper element which molded on a radial outer side of the sleeve such that the sleeve and the damper element together form a unitary structure,

wherein:

the elastomeric damper element presents an elastomeric insertion part configured to be inserted into the mounting opening of the horn plate, and an elastomeric support part configured to define a final mounting position of the damper unit;

the elastomeric insertion part presents a plurality of elastomeric ribs which extend at least partially along said axis and are mutually spaced in a circumferential direction in relation to said axis, said ribs together forming a radially outer engagement surface configured to be brought into direct engagement with an inner surface of said mounting opening;

the radially outer engagement surface has a first radial dimension, and the elastomeric support part has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension;

at least some of the elastomeric ribs present a radially outward extending snap-lock protrusion configured to be inserted through the mounting opening to snap-lock the damper unit in its final mounting position; and said elastomeric support part presents a plurality of elastomeric support studs, which are mutually spaced in the circumferential direction and extend at least partially in the direction of said axis, said elastomeric support studs being flexible in all directions transverse to said axis.

According to this further inventive concept, there may also be provided a method for use in making a frequency-tuned vibration damper assembly for dampening vibrations in a steering wheel, said method comprising:

using one or more damper units, each damper unit comprising an elastomeric vibration damper element having:

- an elastomeric insertion part presenting one or more radially outward extending snap-lock protrusions at an insertion end, and a radially outer engagement surface axially spaced from the snap-lock protrusions, said radially outer engagement surface having a first radial dimension, and

- an elastomeric support part which has a second radial dimension, larger than said first radial dimension;

and

inserting each damper unit, in an insertion direction, into an associated mounting opening in a horn plate along an axis of the damper unit,

wherein the damper unit is inserted into the mounting opening until a final insertion position is reached in which:

- the radially outer engagement surface of the elastomeric insertion portion is in direct contact with an inner surface of the mounting opening,

- the snap-lock protrusions have been inserted through the mounting opening to form a snap-lock of the damper unit in relation to the horn plate, and

- the elastomeric support part has been brought into axial contact with a rear side of the horn plate

Structures, designs, methods and alternatives as described above for the 1 st to the 4 th embodiments may be used in this further inventive concept in all relevant parts.