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Title:
DEVICE AND METHOD FOR TRANSPORTING AIR BETWEEN AN AIR SOURCE OF A VEHICLE AND A TYRE VALVE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/077304
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A device and method for transporting air between an air source of a vehicle and a tyre valve in a wheel of the vehicle is disclosed. The device comprises a housing having a passageway for air;a rotary component within the housing, the rotary component being rotatable with respect to the housing and comprising a passageway for air, with an opening connectable to the tyre valve of the wheel. The passageway of the housing and the passageway of the rotary component are in fluid connection via an annular groove defining an airflow channel in either the housing or the rotary component. The device is configured to be connectable between a stub shaft and the wheel of the vehicle.

Inventors:
MCCORMACK MARK STEPHEN (GB)
Application Number:
GB2016/053415
Publication Date:
May 11, 2017
Filing Date:
November 03, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
FTL SEALS TECH LTD (GB)
International Classes:
B60C23/00
Foreign References:
JP2002087029A2002-03-26
DE102009036524A12011-02-10
US6594566B12003-07-15
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HGF LIMITED (1 City WalkLeeds, West Yorkshire LS11 9DX, GB)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A device for transporting air between an air source of a vehicle and a tyre valve in a wheel of the vehicle, the device comprising

a housing having a passageway for air;

a rotary component within the housing, the rotary component being rotatable with respect to the housing and comprising a passageway for air, with an opening connectable to the tyre valve of the wheel;

wherein the passageway of the housing and the passageway of the rotary component are in fluid connection via an annular groove defining an airflow channel in either the housing or the rotary component; and

wherein the device is configured to be connectable between a stub shaft and the wheel of the vehicle.

2. A device as claimed in claim 1 , further comprising a seal arrangement for ensuring that air flow remains in only the desired parts of the device.

3. A device as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the rotary component is connectable to the wheel of a vehicle via a front face.

4. A device as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein the rotary component is connectable to a stub shaft of a vehicle via a rear face. 5. A device as claimed in claim 4, wherein the rotary component further comprises one or more cavities on the rear fact, connectable to mounting studs of the stub shaft.

6. A device as claimed in any of claims 3 - 5, wherein the rotary component further comprises one or more mounting studs on the front face, corresponding with cavities of the wheel.

7. A device as claimed in any of the preceding claims, further comprising a conduit extending from the opening of the rotary component and connectable to the tyre valve.

8. A kit of parts, comprising a device of any preceding claim and a conduit for connecting the device to an air source in a vehicle.

9. A device as claimed in any of claims 1 - 7 or a kit as claimed in claim 8, further comprising a monitor for monitoring the air flow through the device.

10. A device or kit as claimed in claim 9, wherein the monitor is a sensor.

1 1. A vehicle comprising one or more of the device as claimed in any of claims 1 - 7, 9 or 10.

12. A vehicle as claimed in claim 1 1 , further comprising a controller for controlling the air flow through the device to cause inflation, deflation or maintenance of tyre pressure.

13. A vehicle as claimed in claim 12, further comprising an on board computer panel, with which a user can operate the controller.

14. A vehicle as claimed in claim 13, wherein the vehicle further comprises one or more sensors for detecting the level of and/or type of terrain.

15. A computer readable medium comprising software for controlling the device as claimed in any preceding claim. 16. A device substantially as described herein with reference to the description and Figures 2 - 7.

17. A method of retrofitting a device as claimed in any of claims 1 - 12 to a vehicle, between a wheel and a stub shaft of the vehicle, the method comprising the steps of: disconnecting a wheel from the stub shaft;

removing the wheel from the vehicle;

connecting the device to the stub shaft of the vehicle; and

connecting the wheel to the device. 18. A method substantially as described herein with reference to the description and Figures 2 - 7.

Description:
DEVICE AND METHOD FOR TRANSPORTING AIR BETWEEN AN AIR SOURCE OF

A VEHICLE AND A TYRE VALVE

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a device for transporting air between an air source of a vehicle and the tyres of the vehicle. Aspects of the invention relate to a method of retrofitting the device to vehicles.

BACKGROUND

When Off-roading' in a vehicle, maximum traction is desirable. Traction is highly dependent upon the terrain. Fully inflated tyres are suitable for public roads, as they result in less friction, less engine wear, better handling and better fuel economy in comparison to tyres with lower inflation. However, fully inflated tyres are less desirable on typical off-road terrains, such as sand, rocks or snow. For example, when driving on soft sand, the forward motion of a four wheel drive vehicle disturbs the surface creating small sand mounds in front of each tyre. Although the ground may appear to be flat, the vehicle is constantly trying to climb a very steep slope. As the vehicle moves forward, it is constantly forced to try to lift its entire weight up and over the small sand mounds. With more inflated, harder tyres, rather than climbing these mounds, the sand is pushed in front of the tyres and the vehicle effectively slides back down the mounds. This constant effort and wheel spinning can cause the tyres to dig in further until the vehicle becomes bogged.

One technique to increase off-road traction is to deflate the tyres of the vehicle to some extent. Wth reference to Figure 1A, when a tyre 100a is fully inflated, it forms a near perfect "donut shape", resulting in a small surface area 102a of the tyre in contact with the terrain. Deflating the tyres results in a larger surface area 102b of tyre contacting the ground and therefore more friction and traction. This increased surface area spreads the weight of the vehicle over a larger area and helps to prevent the vehicle from sinking into soft terrain, thereby enabling the vehicle to maintain forward momentum with less effort and reducing the chances of the vehicle becoming bogged. Deflating the tyres also softens the tyre, allowing a significant amount of vibration that would normally be transferred through to the suspension to be absorbed by the deflated tyre 100b. A softer tyre also has increased ability to shape itself around obstacles. However, reducing the tyre pressure decreases clearance under parts of the vehicle, such as the axles. Additionally, failure to re-inflate the tyres when the vehicle is back on public roads can be dangerous. Typically, when off-roading, a user will simply stop, alight the vehicle and manually inflate or deflate its tyres to suit the type of terrain or road. This is inconvenient for the user and interrupts the off-roading experience. Consequently, there is a need for a way to adjust inflation of tyres of vehicles, particularly those which engage in off-road activity.

Attempts to address this need involve the use of external air passage systems which transfer air in to the tyre. Some external air passage systems employ small diameter rotary unions that fit outside each wheel of a vehicle, and include air passage tubes connecting the tyre with an air source. These systems are cumbersome, unaesthetically pleasing to vehicle owners and difficult to assemble, because the air passage tubes must accommodate for the fact that at least two of the wheels are driving wheels. Due to the systems being predominantly external to the vehicle, as shown in Figure 1 C, the air passage tube 104 is also vulnerable to damage and/or disconnection from the wheel when off-roading. The air passage tubes may interfere with, or conversely be disturbed by, other components in the vicinity of the wheel. Also, assembly of such arrangement can be difficult, because two (or four) wheels will steer the vehicle. As such, provision must be made to allow for movement of the connection between wheel and vehicle body. Other systems are designed for use with hollow axle vehicles, for example the system disclosed in WO2013/119634. In such systems the air passage from the air source to the wheel is restricted to the inside of a hollow axle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to an aspect of the invention, there is provided a device for transporting air between an air source of a vehicle and a tyre valve in a wheel of the vehicle, the device comprising

a housing having a passageway for air;

a rotary component within the housing, the rotary component being rotatable with respect to the housing and comprising a passageway for air, with an opening connectable to the tyre valve of the wheel; wherein the passageway of the housing and the passageway of the rotary component are in fluid connection via an annular groove defining an airflow channel in either the housing or the rotary component; and

wherein the device is configured to be connectable between a stub shaft and the wheel of the vehicle.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a kit of parts, comprising the device, and a conduit for connecting the device to an air source in a vehicle

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a vehicle comprising one or more of the above devices.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of retrofitting the device to a vehicle, between a wheel and a stub shaft of the vehicle, the method comprising the steps of:

disconnecting a wheel from the stub shaft;

removing the wheel from the vehicle;

connecting the device to the stub shaft of the vehicle; and

connecting the wheel to the device.

Further features are defined in the appended claims.

Certain embodiments of the invention provide the advantage that a device is provided for conveniently linking an air source in a vehicle to a tyre for inflating or deflating the tyre.

Certain embodiments of the invention provide the advantage that the device is locatable within a vehicle, with only a small external tubing connecting to a tyre valve, compared to known systems. The device may be less prone to damage compared to known systems.

Certain embodiments of the present invention provide the advantage that the device may be retrofitted to many vehicles, without specialist fitting.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS One or more embodiments of the invention will now be described by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figures 1A and 1 B are schematic front views of a fully inflated tyre and a partially inflated tyre in contact with a terrain;

Figure 1 C is a known tyre inflator system;

Figure 2A is a perspective view of a CTI rotary union;

Figure 2B is a cutaway view of the CTI rotary union of Figure 2A;

Figure 3 is a cross sectional view of a CTI rotary union; Figures 4A - 4E are various views of a CTI rotary union;

Figure 5 is a schematic plan view of a CTI rotary union and its connection to an air source within a vehicle;

Figure 6 is an exploded view of a CTI rotary union, including a seal arrangement;

Figure 7 is an exploded view of a CTI rotary union between a vehicle wheel and a stub shaft;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to Figures 2 to 4, a central tyre inflation rotary union (CTIRU) 200 includes a housing 202 and a rotary component 204 within the housing 202. The rotary component 204 is rotatable with respect to the housing 202. The housing 202 may be effectively stationary with respect to the vehicle body.

The housing has an annular groove 206. The groove 206 extends around the internal circumference of the housing 202, and faces the external circumference of the rotary component 204. The housing 202 also includes an opening 208 for connecting to an air source 209, e.g. an air compressor. The annular groove defines an airflow channel 206 through which air can move. The housing 202 and rotary component 204 are typically metallic (e.g. stainless steel), although the skilled person will appreciate that other materials having suitable mechanical properties may be used.

With reference to Figures 3 and 5, the rotary component 204 within the housing 202 includes an opening 210 on a wheel facing side 205 that may be connected to a valve of a tyre on a wheel 700 of a vehicle 500 by means of, for example, a tube 232. As indicated in Figure 5, the tube 232 extends from the opening 210 through the wheel body, and to the tyre valve on the outer side of the wheel. The opening 208 of the housing 202, the airflow channel 206 and the opening 210 of the rotary component 204 are in fluid connection. As shown in Figure 3, the fluid connection is provided by means of a channel 212 in the rotary component 204 that connects the opening 210 to the annular air flow channel 206 via an internal opening 207 in the rotary component 204. Consequently, as the rotary component 204 rotates about a central axis 214, the channel 212 will always connect the external opening 210 of the rotary body 204 to the airflow channel 206.

As shown in Figure 5, a conduit 230 connects the opening 208 of the housing 202 with an air source 209. The air source 209 may be a manifold connecting to each CTIRU 200 in a vehicle 500. The air source 209 may be provided at a suitable location within the vehicle 500. A person skilled in the art will understand how to locate the conduit 230 and tube 232 such that they connect to the required components without interference to other vehicle components. For example, for vehicles with a hydraulic breaking system, the conduit 230 (and therefore the air route) could generally follow the route of the hydraulic break lines. In that example, the vehicle may need to be fitted with a compressor, which would function as the air source. Contrastingly, vehicles with air breaking systems, for example, are typically already provided with a compressor that would be suitable to act as an air source for the CTIRU 200. Numerous suitable compressors are available on the market. With reference to Figure 6, the CTIRU 200 is provided with a seal arrangement. As shown in Figure 6, the device may be provided with environmental seals 602, 604 on a back face of the housing 202 and a front face 205 of the rotary component 204, respectively. The device 200 is further provided with a roller bearing 606 between the rotary component 204 and the housing 202. A pressure seal 608 is provided between the environmental seal 604 and the rotary component 204. Pressure seals 608 may also be provided around the part of the opening 208 of the housing 202 that leads to the airflow channel 206 (as shown in Figure 3). The seals ensure that air flow remains in only the desired parts of the device 200, i.e., in the airflow channel 206, channel 212 and through openings 208, 210. In this example, a seal is used for the CTIRU 200 and is completely dry running; there is no requirement for oil. Of course, the skilled person will appreciate that other seals, including oil seals could be used with the device 200. Indeed, seals similar to those supplied by axle manufacturers could be suitable or could be easily adapted to be suitable.

Known vehicle wheels 700 include a plurality of cavities that are sized and shaped for connection with respective corresponding mounting studs 702 present on a stub shaft 704 of the vehicle. With reference to Figures 2, 4 and 7, the rotary component 204 of the CTIRU 200 includes an array of mounting studs 220. The mounting studs 220 are provided on a first side 205 of the rotary component 204 that, in use, faces the wheel. The mounting studs 220 thus could be said to mimic those found on the stub shaft 704 of the vehicle. The mounting studs 220 are connectable with corresponding cavities in the vehicle wheel 700. The rotary component 204 also includes an array of cavities 222. The cavities 222 are provided on a further side of the rotary component 204, opposite the first side, and that, in use, faces the stub shaft 704. The cavities 222 thus could be said to mimic those found in the wheel 700 of the vehicle. The cavities 222 are connectable with corresponding mounting studs 702 on the stub shaft 704. The cavities may be through holes, blind holes or other such concavities capable of receiving and connecting to the mounting studs 702 on the stub shaft 704. In use, to fit the device 200 to a vehicle 500, the wheel 700 of the vehicle 500 is removed (if necessary) and the cavities 222 of the rotary component 204 are connected with the mounting studs 702 on the stub shaft 704. The cavities in the wheel 700 are connected to the mounting studs 220 on the rotary component 204. In this manner, the CTIRU 200 can be retrofitted to any vehicle. The configuration of the mounting studs 220 and cavities 222 on the rotary component 204 can be designed to match those of the existing stub shaft 704 and wheel 700, respectively.

Once fitted, the CTIRU 200 is attached between the stub shaft 704 and the wheel 700. When the stub shaft 704 rotates, the rotary component 204 and the connected wheel 700 also rotate in unison. The housing 202 remains stationary throughout rotation of the wheel, rotary component and stub shaft (relative to the rotary component). Aptly, one CTIRU 200 will be used for each driving wheel of a vehicle. Aptly all wheels may be fitted with a CTIRU. In some embodiments, a vehicle including one or more CTIRU 200 is provided. When the CTIRU 200 is in use, for example to inflate a tyre, air is fed from an air source 209 at a manifold of the vehicle 500 through the conduit 230. Air flows from the conduit 230 through the opening 208 in the housing 202. Air flows into and fills the airflow channel 206. Air flows from the airflow channel 206, through the internal opening 207 and the open channel 212 of the rotary component 204, and exits through the external opening 210 in the rotary component 204. A valve 211 may be provided in the internal opening 207 of the rotary component, allowing or preventing airflow through the internal opening 207, depending on the type of tyre inflation adjustment desired by the user.

As the air exits the external opening 210, it then passes through a tube 232 connecting the external opening 210 to a valve on the tyre of the vehicle 500. The result is in air being delivered from the air source 209 to the tyre, thereby inflating the tyre.

Where the user wishes to deflate a tyre, air is fed in the opposite direction to that described above. That is, air flows from the tyre, through the tyre valve, through the tube 232, passing through external opening 210 to channel 212, into the annular airflow channel 206. Air in the airflow channel flows through the opening 208, through the conduit 230, to the air source 209. Alternatively, there may be provided an outlet for expelling the air to the atmosphere, e.g. a one-way valve.

In this embodiment, the vehicle 500 fitted with the CTIRU 200 includes a controller (not shown in the Figures) for controlling the input of air from the air source 209 to the tyre, or the output of air from the tyre. This is a central tyre inflation system control unit (CTISCU), which is linked to a control panel on board the vehicle 500. The CTISCU controls air flow throughout the CTIRU system, and can be commanded by the user's interaction with the control panel. In this way, the user can control whether the tyres are maintained at current inflation level, or whether they are inflated or deflated (and the extent of inflation/deflation). CTISCUs are well known in the art and are available from a number of manufacturers, selling the device under different trade names.

Optionally, a vehicle 500 including one or more CTIRU 200 includes a monitoring device for monitoring air flow through either the CTIRU or the full system. One suitable means for monitoring airflow is one or more optical sensors. For example, a sensor could be placed at the opening 208 of the housing. A further sensor could be placed at the external opening 210 of the rotary component 204. The skilled person will appreciate that additional sensors could be placed in a variety of locations throughout the device. In another example, the means for monitoring air flow could be at least one pressure sensor, placed, for example, at opening 210 of the rotary component 204 of the CTIRU 200. Aptly, the sensors relay information about air flow to an on board computer and display informatics on the on board control panel, or another screen, so that a user can readily understand the inflation state of the vehicle's tyres at any given time. Optionally, a vehicle 500 comprising the device 200 might further be provided with one or more sensors of various type for detecting the level of and/or type of terrain with which tyres of the vehicle 500 are engaging. This information is fed back to the on board computer, along with information from means for monitoring airflow throughout the device. The on board computer panel uses this information to determine whether tyres should be inflated, deflated or maintained. In this way, adaptation of the amount of tyre inflation depending on terrain level or type can be automated, requiring little input from the user. Aptly, such a system could be over - ridable by the user, in case of emergency, for example. Suitable software on a computer readable medium, such as a CD, memory stick, SD card, RAM or other suitable readable storage means is provided to enable these functions.

With the CTIRU 200 of the invention, the housing 202 may be affixed to a stationary part of the vehicle, e.g. a stub shaft on a fixed axle. Air for inflating/deflating a tyre may be connected thereto. The rotary component 204 of the CTIRU 200 may be affixed to a rotating part of the vehicle, e.g. the wheel. The air passageways within the CTIRU 200 allow air to pass from the fixed part to the rotating part.

The CTIRU 200 of the invention provides a device that is fitable to almost any vehicle, and allows air to be passed from an air source 209 within the vehicle 500 to a tyre on a wheel. The device may further allow air to be extracted from the tyre. With the CTIRU 200, the main part of the air channel is located within the vehicle body. Thus there is a reduced chance of damage from external impact. The system also allows the steering wheels to move without particular provision for corresponding movement of air channels.

Various modifications to the detailed designs described above are possible. For example, although the device 200 has been described to have a housing 202 with an annular groove 206, which connects with a channel 212 in the rotary component 204, the annular groove 206 could be provided in the rotary housing. In this case, the annular groove 206 should connect a channel in the housing 202 with a channel through the rotary component.

All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of such features and/or steps are mutually exclusive.

Each feature disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features.

The invention is not restricted to the details of any foregoing embodiments. The invention extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed. The claims should not be construed to cover merely the foregoing embodiments, but also any embodiments which fall within the scope of the claims.




 
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