Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
INVERTED BALL SCREW ACTUATOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/256934
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to linear actuators and, in particular, to powered linear actuator for converting rotational movement into linear movement, and vice versa. A ball screw actuator is described, characterized in that a ball recirculation system located on an inner screw member is utilized. The present disclosure has use to applications requiring high performance, high force and speed. This invention is performing both at surface, subsurface and subsea with purpose to replace hydraulic cylinders.

Inventors:
KALVATN OVE (NO)
MOKRZYCKI ADAM (NO)
Application Number:
PCT/NO2020/050161
Publication Date:
December 23, 2021
Filing Date:
June 16, 2020
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
EXCESS ENG AS (NO)
International Classes:
F16H25/22; H02K7/06
Foreign References:
NO344441B12019-12-09
EP3354932A12018-08-01
GB526735A1940-09-24
US5358265A1994-10-25
US5195721A1993-03-23
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAI MS

1 . Linear actuator for providing rotational movement into linear movement and vice versa, the linear actuator comprising: an outer ball lead-screw (4) with internal helical ball rolling grooves an inner ball lead-screw body (5) having outer helical ball rolling grooves and deflector circuit the outer ball lead-screw (4) is rotated to laterally move the inner lead-screw body (5) through a plurality of balls in rolling contact with the outer ball lead-screw (4) and the inner ball lead-screw body (5) to transfer the load and to achieve lateral movement of the piston rod (12) an inner ball lead-screw body (5) with deflector channel (17) between two helical ball rolling circuits com municating with each other as the recirculation groove gradually slopes into a diameter slightly larger than the ball before entering into the ball deflector channel (17) where the deflector groove is deep enough for the bearing balls to pass unimpeded over the land between the adjacent grooves of the outer lead screw (4) the number of helical ball rolling surfaces on the outer ball lead-screw (4) is giving the lateral stroke of the piston rod (12)

Characterised by; the outer ball lead-screw (12) rotates and is threadingly engaged with the inner lead screw body (5) through a plurality of balls (16) the inner lead-screw body (5) is fixed to the rod (12) and is moved laterally by the plurality of balls (16) between the outer-lead screw (4) and inner lead-screw body (5) a deflector channel between each ball recirculation circuit on inner lead-screw body

(5) the deflector channel is formed in a way that prevent the balls to fall out of the deflector channel when passing over the land between the adjacent grooves of the outer-lead screw (4) at least one protruding rod (12)

2. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , whereas a piston rod (12) is connected to the inner lead-screw (5) and outer lead-screw (4) through a plurality of balls (16) for transferring the lateral movement into rotational movement

3. Linear actuator according to any of claims 1 to 2 wherein a plurality of rolling balls (16) is running among first and second grooves of the outer lead-screw and the circulating channels in the inner lead-screw

4. Linear actuator according to any of claims 1 to 3, wherein the outer lead-screw (4) have maximum groove depth is slightly less than the diameter of the balls

5. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , 2 and 4, whereas the piston rod (12) is prevented from rotating

6. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , wherein the said apparatus having a spring system for moving the rod laterally in a said direction.

7. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , wherein the end plates (2) (10) and housing (3) supports the outer lead-screw, laterally and radially

8. Linear actuator according to claim 1 and 7, wherein the lateral force is provided with rotational motion from an electric motor

9. Linear actuator according to claim 1 whereas the drive unit have at least one electrical connector comprises inductive couplings for transmission of power and data

10. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , wherein the drive unit have at least one electrical connector is a wet-mate connector

1 1 . Linear actuator according to claim 1 , wherein the one of the end caps (4) includes a brake gear, or both function

12. Linear actuator according to claim 9, wherein at least one connector comprises a plurality of electrical connectors

13. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , 9 and 10, wherein the outer lead-screw is supported laterally and radially and is connected to a mechanical override whereas the rotational energy in form of torque can be provided by a remote operated vehicle (ROV) or a hand-held tool

14. Linear actuator according to claim 1 , 9 to 13, wherein the apparatus can be operated directly with an ROV

15. Linear actuator according to claim 1 to 13, wherein the housing (3) is oil filled and protected towards ambient pressure from the surrounding

16. Linear actuator according to any of claims 1 -15, further compromising a mechanical interface formed as a bucket coupling and a drive shaft

17. Linear actuator according to claim 1 further comprising electronic limit control that senses motor current and provides end-of-stroke shut off and m id-stroke thrust shut-off

Description:
INVERTED BALL SCREW ACTUATOR

DESCRI PTI ON

Devices which provide a reciprocating motion through an actuator member as that mem ber is moved through an actuation stroke are known in the prior art. I ndustry today has high focus on efficiency, environm ent and digitalization to perform operations at land, at sea and subsea. One of the focus over the past years is to use efficient electric power to perform the tasks as to replace the more inefficient hydraulic systems. An advantage to a hydraulic powered actuator is that it provides high linear forces in an extremely small packaging, typically cylinder/piston arrangem ent. Hydraulic systems, no m atter how well maintained, leak fluid contributing to an ever-growing environment problem . Many systems have been patented and developed to compete with the hydraulic actuators, but low efficiency and large building size has prevented electric energy to become the preferred m ethod. The present invention relates to an improved and more efficient system of transferring the rotational torque into linear force. The present invention consisting of a compact inverted ball screw linear actuator system with recirculation of bearing balls and provides the required efficiency and accuracy demanded by the industry. The present invention uses inverted ball re-circulation whereas the balls are recirculated internally in the screw body and not in the screw nut as for normal ball screw applications. As a result of the new invention more hydraulic systems can be replaced by electrical power able to perform m ore accurate tests, more environmentally friendly, efficient operation and allow for more rem ote operated and digitalized systems. Additionally, computer control of an electric m otor is relatively simple. For this and other reasons mentioned above, the trend has been to directly link the rotating output shaft of an electric m otor to a m echanical device which converts the rotational motion into reciprocal or linear m otion. The m ost common m ethod is to use a lead screw coupled directly to the motor output shaft with a follower unit traveling along the threads of the lead screw.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,660,704 discloses a m otor concentrically m ounted about a threaded drive element. This reduces the length of the actuator assembly unit in short stroke applications and encloses the threads. However, it substantially lengthens the actuator in long stroke applications since a smooth section equal in length to the threaded section m ust be included in order for the actuator shaft to slide through the bushing.

The word “linear actuator” is an ambiguous term used to broadly describe essentially any process that extends and retract a thrust m ember in a linear m ovement. The wide range term “linear actuator” is used to describe systems both in space, at surface, subsea and downhole. Linear actuators are operated by various known mechanisms, hydraulic, pneumatic, electric and manually. I n addition, a further confusion is introduced as the word “linear” in the term “linear actuator” does not lim it this application’s use of rotational motion to perform the linear movement. In this context the word “linear” includes an apparatus converting rotational motions into a linear m otion to extend and retract a thrust m ember, sometimes with a work piece fixed to its end to perform certain tasks. The invention could also be refereed to as electrical cylinder compared to the use of name hydraulic cylinder.

Linear actuators are fast, precise and are relatively easy to use. One major objective of the invention is to provide a compact and reliable solutions for subsea equipment. Transform ing subsea valve operations from hydraulic to electrical operated energy is something that the industry has been looking into and developed over years. This invention will provide the required compact design required for such application by using electrical motor(s) to operate the linear ball screw arrangement, thereby giving the required efficiency and reliability. This invention is suited both for land, at sea, in shallow water, deep-water and ultra deep-water locations.

Another major objective for this embodiment is to provide an electrical actuator for subsea operations that also provides a mechanical override function in the system , such secondary means to operate the actuator is often referred to as contingency in a situation where the primary operation method has failed. This is typically required on critical valves in subsea systems and in well control systems.

Another objective of this embodiment is to provide a mechanical system for locking the actuator in one position to prevent unintentional movement. Typically, this is required on well control system for preventing the valves to move in case of vibrations or other external forces.

At present there are a number of systems available on the market that can convert rotational movement into linear movement through a ball screw arrangement. Conventional ball screw and nut assembly has a structure that includes a round lead-screw having a continuous helical groove or thread (with accompanying lands) along its length and a follower nut or nut with a mating continuous helical groove or thread that cooperates with the external groove of the leadscrew to form a course or sized to contain a single-file row of plurality of balls, which operate in rolling contact with both the lead-screw helical grooves and follower (or nut) helical groove as one is rotated relative to the other. I n general, these systems include a screw and nut mechanism with recirculating balls to transform the rotational movement into linear movement or vice versa.

Ball screw design of this type have low frictional resistance and a smooth relative rotation as compared to other type of screw thread systems. A smooth lateral movement achieved in ball screw design facilitates accurate and high-speed operations as required in typically manufacturing apparatus and robotic systems.

I n ball screw and nut design the balls are recirculated by rolling along the race or course by the relative motion of the screw and nut. As a result, a structure for by-pass to recirculate the balls are required. Conventional balls screw and nut design use a variety of techniques, including the use of external and internal recirculation systems in the ball screw nut. Whereas this invention is recirculating the balls internally in the screw body.

The objective is achieved in accordance with the invention through the features which are specified in the description below and in the claims, that follow.

I DENTI FI CATI ON OF OBJECTS OF THE I NVENTI ON

This invention m akes available an high efficiency inverted ball screw actuator com prising an outer casing, an outer ball lead-screw with internal helical ball rolling grooves an inner ball lead-screw body having outer helical ball rolling grooves and deflector circuit for re circulation of balls. Whereas the inner ball lead-screw body is transferring lateral movem ent to the piston rod and the ball rolling groves of the outer lead-screw is defining the length of the lateral movement of the piston rod.

Thanks to this solution, the travel of the piston rod protruding through the outer casing is not lim ited by the threads of the inner ball screw outer helical ball rolling surface as norm ally is the case for ball screw actuators.

Thanks to this solution the resistance to fatigue of the piston rod is not weakened by threads and m akes it possible to m ake an lightweight, high efficiency ball screw actuator that can laterally transfer high loads in a casing body with sim ilar size as an hydraulic cylinder.

The present invention provides an , bi-directional linear actuator of relatively sm all size (length and diameter) preferable electrically operated. The linear actuator includes a ball screw nut longer than the screw body whereas the screw body is connected to a shaft. The ball screw nut is connected to a driving unit and have internal helical grooves.

A prim ary object of this invention is to provide a compact device to efficient transform rotational movem ent in to linear (lateral) movement, and vice versa.

Another primary object for this invention is to provide a linear actuator with high efficiency that is to be used as electrical cylinder when driven by an electric motor, both the ball screw nut and ball screw body having helical grooves.

Another object is to provide a, ball screw device where the ball screw body, also referred to as inner lead-screw body is relatively shorter in length than the outer lead-screw and that the inner ball lead-screw body is jointly connected to a force transm ission element, here referred to as cylindric rod.

Another object is to provide a, ball screw device that uses the inner ball lead-screw body to recirculate the plurality of balls and uses rolling contact with the outer lead-screw to transfer the load. Another object is to provide a, ball screw device where the inner lead-screw body is formed as a piston and whereas the inner lead-screw body and cylindrical rod are non-rotating enabling the invention to work as electric cylinder.

Another object of the invention is to provide an accurate and precise tool enable to perform at a controllable speed with high positioning accuracy.

Another object of the invention is to provide a fully electrical linear actuator system without used of any hydraulics for transforming the rotational movement into linear movement, and vice versa.

Another object of the invention is to enable mechanical override for rotational motion by a surface tool or subsea by a Remote Operated Vehicle or similar as a secondary means to operate the actuator.

Another object of the invention is to enable operations both on surface, subsea and downhole in drilling or intervention operations.

Another object of the invention is to provide a spring operated fail-safe open or fail-safe close design included in the electrical actuator.

U.S 5337627 discloses a ball screw design used for transferring/tightening an object in a machine tool or in a molding machine. The drawback of this type of design having an external recirculation system is the overall size tends to be large and difficult to fit in small cylinders.

US6357100 discloses an apparatus for actuating tooling through a planetary screw for transferring high forces to activate riveting and other tooling’s as part of automatic fastening.

US2004/0103734 Discloses an apparatus for converting rotational movement into linear movement by a ball screw and nut assembly with a internally circulating system for the plurality of the balls. And that shall be easier to manufacture. The drawback of this design is the dependency of a thread system on the center screw (lateral moving shaft) making the system overall size large if the lateral moving shaft needs to be sealed off du to ambient pressure or dusty environment.

US2009/0064811 discloses a ball screw design with downsized nut and simplified circulation structure for the plurality of the balls. The screw shaft and a nut member are threadingly engaged with each other through intermediation of balls. The drawback is the dependency of thread system on the lateral moving screw.

US2013/0133453 Discloses an internal circulating ball screw and threaded shaft. The drawback in this invention is the dependency of thread system on the lateral moving lead- screw. Thus, making the design large in size and difficult to fit into a compact linear actuator. This solution also required the lead screw to be rotating.

US2007/0240532 Discloses a spindle nut for a ball screw, having a continuous ball track

EP2916042 Discloses an electric linear actuator which can reduce damage and wear of the housing and perform the anti-rotation of the nut with a simple structure to improve the reliability and manufacturing cost of the electric linear actuator. The drawback of this design is the dependency of the helical grooves on the screw shaft which tends to make the overall size large by using a driving screw shaft with proportionally same length as the stroke of the piston rod.

US2004200303A1 Discloses a ball Screw device comprises a nut having a thread groove in the inner peripheral Surface thereof, a Screw shaft having a thread groove in the outer peripheral Surface thereof and a plurality of balls interposed between the respective thread grooves. I n the Screw shaft, the thread groove is of at least substantially one turn. I n the screw shaft is provided a ball circulation groove for coupling the downstream and upstream Sides of the thread groove So that the balls are returned to the upstream Side from the downstream Side So as to be thereby circulated. The drawback of this design is that the balls disposed in the ball circulation grooves 33 and 34 can be subject to neither a radial load nor an axial load.

SUMMARY OF THE I NVENTION

Characteristics and advantages of the present disclosure and additional features and benefits will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art upon consideration of the following detailed description of exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure and referring to the accompanying figures. It should be understood that the description herein and appended drawings, being of example embodiments, are not intended to lim it the claims of this patent application, any patent granted hereon or any patent or patent application claiming priority hereto. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the claims. Many changes may be made to the embodiments and details disclosed herein without departing from such spirit and scope. The objects, advantages, and features of the invention will become more apparent by reference to the drawings which are appended hereto and wherein like numerals indicate like parts and wherein an illustrative embodiment of the invention is shown, of which:

FI G. 1 is an illustration of an example of an inverted ball screw actuator device packed inside a housing (3) with the piston rod (12) retracted into the housing (3) according to an embodiment of the disclosure; FI G. 2 is a side view of an example of an inverted ball screw actuator device packed inside a motor housing (3) with the piston rod (12) retracted into the housing (3) according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 3 is a side view of an example of an inverted ball screw actuator device packed inside a motor housing (3) with the piston rod (12) fully extended out from the housing (3) according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 4 is an illustration of an example of an inverted ball screw actuator device packed inside a housing (3) showing the drive side (10) of the piston rod (12) according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 5 is a cross sectional illustration of an inverted ball screw actuator device showing an example of a ball screw arrangement, the piston rod (12) and drive side (10) to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 6 shows the inverted ball screw recirculation circuits (17) also referred to as cylinder piston device (5) , the inverted ball screw actuator device drive side sealing device (7) and piston rod (12) sealing device (2), as an example of an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 7 shows the cross-sectional illustration of an inverted ball screw, a plurality of recirculating balls (16) engaged between the outer lead-screw (4) and the inner lead-screw (5) whereas the plurality of balls only engages with the cylinder piston device in the recirculation circuits (17) according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 1 shows an illustration of the inverted ball screw device external interface (1 1 ) used for securing the device to other components, this is an illustration of one type of securing method but could be arranged in a variety of known methods, the force transmission interface to external device (7) may be arranged as threaded interface according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FI G. 4 shows a isometrically illustration of the inverted ball screw actuator device whereas the drive side (10) is arranged as a splined interface to the power source, the drive side (10) is protruding through a sealing device (7) and connected to the outer lead-screw (4) the drive side (10) interface to power source may be arranged in a variety of known methods, according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

Exemplary embodiment of the invention FIG. 52, shows a typical layout of an inverted ball screw actuator device, comprising force transmission element interface to external device (7) inverted ball screw housing interface to external device (1 1 ) , drive unit interface device (10) connected to the outer lead-screw (4) with sealing device (7) and bearings (13) , piston rod (12) with sealing device (2) , and bearings (13) form ing one sealed off compartment, whereas the outer lead-screw is connected to the inner lead-screw through a plurality if balls where whereas the only members penetrating the said com partm ent is the piston rod ( 12) and drive unit interface, here in this illustration formed as an spline.

Further, the exemplary embodiment of the invention shown in FI G. 1 , FI G. 2, FI G. 3, FI G. 4, FI G. 5, FI G 6 and FI G. 7, illustrates the preferred embodim ent of the inverted ball screw actuator device with ball screw arrangem ent inside a housing (3) . Rotating the drive unit interface will m ake the outer lead-screw (2) to rotate, through the plurality of balls ( 1 6) threadingly engaged between the outer lead-screw (4) , inner lead-screw (5) , it will force the inner lead-screw (5) and the piston rod ( 12) to move laterally in and out of the housing (3) dependent on way of rotation.

FI G. 7 illustrates the preferred embodiment of the ball screw linear actuator in a so-called open view to clarify further the com ponents included in the circulation paths of the plurality of balls in the invention.

Further FI G. 7 illustrates the preferred embodim ent of the plurality of bearing balls ( 1 6) , whereas the ball screw outer lead-screw (4) having outer helical ball rolling surface with ball circulation grooves configured to rotate on the inner lead-screw (5) helical ball rolling surface through the set of balls ( 1 6) .

Further FI G. 7 illustrates the ball recirculation path ( 1 7) of the invention shown with a plurality of bearing balls ( 1 6) inserted in the helical path grooves. The outer lead-screw (4) rotates while the inner lead-screw is fixed to the piston rod ( 12) either by fasteners, by friction, by a non-circular interface or a com bination of methods. The threads of the inner lead-screw (4) have a deflector system typically every 72 degree for each ball circulation circuit. Direction of rotation for the balls is given by the rotational direction of the inverted ball screw outer lead-screw (2) . The inverted deflector system in the inner lead-lead screws enables the balls to pass the top of the threads of the outer lead-screw (4)

FI G. 6 illustrates the inner lead-screw of the invention , the inner lead screw (5) are formed with outer bound helical grooves and deflectors spaced typically every 72 degrees for each ball circulating circuit, that when assem bled with the outer lead-screw (2) forms a deflector channel that the bearing balls can advance through. The grooves of the deflector channel ( 1 7) have diam eter slightly larger than the balls ( 16) and are formed in a way that between the deflector entrance and deflector exit the groove opening is sm aller than the ball diameter such that the balls are prevented from falling out. The inner lead-screw does not rotate but are fixed to the piston rod ( 12) . The inner lead-screw (5) is used for recirculation of the plurality of bearing balls as outlined in FI G.7 through the ball deflector channel ( 17) with exit and entrance grooves. I nner and outer lead screw when invention is assembled forms a continuous groove path for the bearing balls to circulate and roll in , rolling directions of the bearing balls are determ ined by the direction of rotation of the ball screw nut (2) . An example of one configuration of grooves are shown in FIG. 6. As the inner lead-screw (5) is shown with deflector channels evenly spaced every 72 degree for each ball circulation circuit. The ball deflector channels are more than balls diameter deep with adequate clearance for the bearing balls to pass unimpeded over the land between the adjacent grooves of the outer lead screw (4) as shown in FIG. 4.

The illustrated embodiment in Fig. 1 to FIG. 7 preferable uses an electric motor to rotate the outer lead-screw. Electric power and communication may be supplied via a suitable electrical control lines. The control lines may be connected to a power source at suitable location either subsea or at surface. I n some embodiments, the electrical control lines are coupled to control modules (not shown) and enable transfer of desired electrical signals, e.g. power and data signals (communication).

Referring now back to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3 , the piston rod (12) may comprise a movable stem, or other suitable drive member which may be selectively operated via the electric motor or other type of motive member to actuate a valve or other driven component in a host at surface or subsea. According to one embodiment, the subsea electrical ball screw linear actuator comprises an actuator body having a rear face and a front face. At least one electrical connector and a mechanical interface are both positioned along the rear face.

Depending on the application, the ball screw linear actuator may be used in cooperation with various types of hosts. In subsea applications, for example, the subsea host may comprise a variety of subsea production or processing devices. Examples of such subsea host structures include a subsea tree, manifold, pump, pipeline end manifold (PLEM), pipeline end termination (PLET), or other subsea hosts.

I n some embodiments, the linear ball screw actuator is used in subsea operations such as Cone Penetration Testing apparatus. Cone Penetration Test apparatus is used in the field geotechnical investigation of soil conditions. I n such application the ball screw linear actuator is either connected to a umbilical for transferring power and communication or includes a battery package for operation of the linear ball screw actuator.

I n some embodiments, the linear ball screw actuator is purely used to electrify hydraulic systems by replacing hydraulic cylinders both at surface, subsurface, subsea and in downhole tools

I n some embodiments, the actuator mechanical interface also may comprise a bucket coupling sized and constructed for receipt in a bucket receiver of host mechanical interface. For example, the bucket coupling, and corresponding bucket receiver may be in the form of ROV bucket couplings and ROV buckets, respectively. For rotary drive members, the ROV interface between the ROV bucket coupling and bucket receiver may be constructed with a variety of cooperating configurations, e.g. according to standards described in ISO 13628-8 or API 17H. Depending on the parameters of a given subsea operation, the electric control lines may be part of an electrical flying lead (EFL) connected between subsea control module and host electrical connectors. Additionally, actuator electrical connectors and corresponding host electrical connectors may be constructed as wet-mate connectors to facilitate coupling and decoupling in a liquid environment with simple linear motion of the electrical actuator. The installation and de-installation of the electrical actuator with respect to the host may be accomplished without a live electrical connection, i.e. without electrical power supplied to the electrical actuator during engagement and disengagement with respect to host.

The actuator mechanical interface may comprise a drive member which automatically engages the driven component, e.g. valve, via linkage or other suitable mechanism . I n the illustrated embodiment, the linkage extends to and forms part of the host mechanical interface. The drive member may be in the form of a drive stem which is linearly movable by a motive member within actuator body

By way of example, if the ball screw linear actuator is used for subsea operations the electrical interface may comprise at least one electrical connector positioned along the rear face. I n the example illustrated, the electrical connectors is positioned along rear face for electrical engagement with corresponding electrical connectors of host electrical interface. By way of example, the electrical connectors may comprise male/female connectors, respectively, or vice versa.

The electrical connectors (e.g. male/female connectors) may be utilized for transm ission of desired electrical signals, e.g. electrical power signals, control signals, and data com m unication signals.

Various types of electrical connectors and/or related components may be utilized to operate the ball screw linear actuator. One example comprises stab plate connectors. I n some applications, the host electrical connectors may be installed at a fixed position on, for example, a panel of the host structure but with a predefined free-floating capability for tolerance compensation. The electrical connectors also may be constructed in the form of inductive couplings able to transmit electrical power and/or data signals