JOINT FOR TRANSMITTING A TORSIONAL LOAD WITH ELASTIC RESPONSE
A transmissive joint has an elastic response for transmitting a torsional load capable of ensuring the transmission in the absence of coaxiality between two actuating and actuated devices, and allowing the internal passage of cabling or possible accessory components along the axis of transmission/torsion.
- 1-12. -12. (canceled)
- 13. A transmissive joint with elastic response for transmitting a torsional load between an actuating and an actuated device, the joint comprising a unitary body having a tubular structure around a central or longitudinal axis, the body showing a basic outline defined by sections on any planes orthogonal with said axis that are mutually identical aside from a scale factor;
- a distribution of slots being formed in said body through removal of material, said slots defining the following elements in the same body;
at respective longitudinal ends of said body, a first and second annular element, lying over planes orthogonal with said central axis and spaced along it, said annular elements being adapted for a mechanical connection with the actuating or the actuated device; and a beam-shaped pattern extending between said annular elements and providing for a plurality of junctions to respective of said elements; wherein said junctions are in the same number for each annular element and regularly spaced following a direction defined by a circle circumscribed to said outline, in a sequence that comprises alternatively a junction to the first annular element and a junction to the second annular element; and wherein said pattern comprises at least two modules each comprised between the midpoint of respective consecutive junctions on the same annular element, said modules repeating serially along said circumference, at least one junction being shared among two adjacent modules, the modules having each an internal symmetry mirrored with respect to plane (α
) passing through said central axis and for the midpoint of the single junction of the module to the opposed annular element; and
wherein between a junction to an annular element and the consecutive junction to the other annular element said pattern follows a path substantially in accordance with a curved line, a polyline with at least three straight line segments, or a combination of straight line segments and curved lines.
- View Dependent Claims (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24)
- a distribution of slots being formed in said body through removal of material, said slots defining the following elements in the same body;
The object of the present invention is a new configuration of a joint for transmitting a torsional load with elastic response.
A recurring need in the engineering field is to mutually attach two elements (e.g. a motor and a driven device), such that the two elements are rigidly linked as far as their rotation is concerned about a transmission axis, to transmit a rotational power around the same axis. For this purpose, the two elements or devices are therefore to be connected without the possibility of mutual rotation.
The difficulty and heavy design committment of this task (which accordingly are reflected in research costs) consist in achieving high concentricity tolerances among the two devices in order to make rotation accurate and possible without overloading the structure and/or the relative bushings. Also considering that it is uncertain that the (power) input and output devices can be perfectly aligned, the response to such problem is the use of torsional transmission joints designed indeed to remedy the alignment defects.
In doing this, in many circumstances an undesired and non-accurately quantifiable rigidity/elasticity (inherent in the material and/or the component used) is introduced in the transmission. Such factor may be significantly detrimental when the transmission of the motion is to be controlled as far as torque is concerned (in particular, the critical condition is in the inversion of motion). If, moreover, there are plastic and/or rubbery materials in the joint, viscous components are introduced, which are undesired as well, if one wants to minimize the hysteretic components between the loading and unloading cycles.
The condition of homokinetic transmission of the motion by the connecting joint is also very important. Most times indeed, a motion/drive is to be transmitted without it being altered (for example a single universal joint does not transmit motion under homokinetic conditions).
It is often also required for the torsional transmission joints to be hollow, thus leaving the possibility, when needed, of hiding the passage therein of cables, support shafts, idle shafts or other, which have a non-negligible diameter with respect to the overall sizes of the joint. This obviously causes an additional restriction to be considered when designing or selecting the joint.
To summarize, the main technical problems to deal with within the context described above may be summarized as follows:
ensuring a torque transmission between input device and output device (or actuating device and actuated device) also in the presence of undesired coaxiality defects;
accurately knowing the torsion constant of the joint in order to allow it to be used (also) as torque sensor, mechanical fuse and vibration absorption device (low-pass filter);
achieving or approximating an absence of hysteresis in the loading and unloading cycle;
providing an inner axial space available for possibly routing cables or other accessory components;
reducing the production and management/maintenance costs;
providing a joint layout that is easily adjustable and therefore can be customized;
allowing a certain, albeit contained, elastic deformation, also in the axial direction, in order to compensate for the assembly tolerances.
To the best of the applicant'"'"'s knowledge, no known solution is completely satisfactory in relation to the above aspects. For example, a joint shown in EP1724481 is made in several pieces, including a flexible portion capable of giving a certain elasticity to the transmission. The flexible portion comprises fins of various nature, all arranged parallel and adapted to be deformed elastically. The geometry of the joint does not allow the mutual flexion of the two input and output axes, nor a deformation in axial direction.
Another solution generically known is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,241,224. Here, the device is made in a single piece but in turn it does not allow a mutual inflexion between the two input and output junction elements. Indeed, by ensuring only the mutual rotation between the elements, this device is designed to act as a torsional spring and may not be taken into consideration for making a true elastic joint.
An even further known solution is the one described in international publication WO2015/001469 which relates to a torsional spring that can also be used as a joint adapted to transmit a torsional drive with elastic response. Also in this case, the device is formed by excavating a unitary body, but it comprises a plurality of plate-like segments evolving mainly according to planes having a relation of parallelism with respect to the transmission/torsion axis; accordingly, the overall torsional behaviour of this joint can be assimilated with the one of a single imaginary equivalent plate having a length equal to the sum of the lengths of the segments, but obviously with a much more compact structure and with the connections between the segments which stiffen the structure with respect to the equivalent plate.
Due to its structure, the use of this device is not fully recommended should the coaxiality and/or the mutual axial position of the elements it connects not be sufficiently accurate. Moreover, in case of input and output elements that are not aligned with respect to the rotation/torsion axis, the device would suffer a structural weakness related with the directionality of the parallel faces forming it. Moreover, it does not provide the possibility of satisfactorily integrating cables, support shafts, idle shafts or other similar elements with axial arrangement.
Specifically within the robotics field, and in particular in the wearable robotics field, the use is frequent of elastic actuators in which an elastic element is arranged between the actuator and the actuated mechanical device or component. Examples in this regard are provided in: —J. F. Veneman, R. Ekkelenkamp, R. Kruidhof, F. C. T. van der Helm and H. van der Kooij “A Series Elastic- and Bowden-Cable-Based Actuation System for Use as Torque Actuator in Exoskeleton-Type Robots” The International Journal of Robotics Research 2006 25: 261 DOI: 10.1177/0278364906063829; and in—Claude Lagoda, Alfred C. Schouten, Arno H. A. Stienen, Edsko E. G. Hekman, Herman van der Kooij “Design of an electric Series Elastic Actuated Joint for robotic gait rehabilitation training” Proceedings of the 2010 3rd IEEE RAS EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics”, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, Sep. 26-29, 2010. This second document describes in particular an example of a torsional spring, particularly an elastic actuator used in the walking rehab, made from a metal body suitably worked in order to provide the same body with the properties desired. The elastic element used in the actuator is obtained from a steel plate-like body in which two spiral-shaped slots are formed. The device thus configured has certain problems associated with hysteresis, contact between the coils which limits the applicable load and the relatively high discrepancy between the stiffness simulated with FEM analysis and the actual stiffness.
In light of the above, an object of the present invention is to provide a joint for transmitting a torsional load with elastic response which ensures transmission also in the absence of coaxiality between the two actuating and actuated devices, with a layout that can be manufactured in an affordable manner, that is easy to adjust/customize, and which allows the internal passage of cabling or possible accessory components along the transmission/torsion axis.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a joint of the above mentioned type, of which the torsion constant can be precisely known in order to allow it to be used for various and/or complementary functions with respect to the transmission function, such as torque sensor, mechanical fuse or vibration absorption device.
It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide a joint of the above mentioned type which closely approximates, and even reaches, the condition of lack of hysteresis in the loading and unloading cycle.
It is then an object of the present invention to provide a joint of the above mentioned type which has a certain elastic deformability also with respect to a load in the axial direction.
These and other objects are achieved with the joint for transmitting a torsional load with elastic response according to the present invention, the essential features of which are defined in the first of the appended claims. Further optional yet significant features are defined by the dependent claims.
The features and advantages of the joint for transmitting a torsional load with elastic response according to the present invention shall become apparent from the description below of embodiments thereof, made by way of example and not limitative, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
With reference for the time being to
According to the invention, the body 1 has a distribution of slots 1b formed through removal or excavation of material, this resulting in a windowed structure of the body, wherein the inner cavity 1a is opened outwards through the slots, and the remaining solid material defines a pattern (that is a path or mesh) of beam-shaped members 13 which join two annular elements 11, 12. The latter elements are arranged at respective axial ends of the body, and are therefore spaced, lying over respective planes orthogonal with the central axis. The beam-shaped members are to be intended as members in which a direction of elongation can be defined and is predominant, which direction makes it possible to schematize the pattern with a linear two-dimensional geometry, the lines being defined by the median line or longitudinal axis/direction of each beam member.
The annular elements 11, 12 are adapted for the mechanical connection respectively with an actuating device (or actuator) and an actuated device (or load), between which a rotational drive is to be transmitted through the joint by stressing the joint to torsion around the axis X, which is practically the fulcrum axis of the torque or twisting couple to be exchanged (between the actuator and the load) by means of the joint itself. The mechanical connection system is not represented since it may be any system of type in itself known for interfacing the joint with various types of mechanical components. Usable connections/fastenings include flanged connections with screws, shaft-hub connections, grooved outlines, keys, tabs, radial pins, shrink disks, etc.
Specifically regarding the beam-shaped pattern 13, it has a plurality of junctions 13a, 13b which are integral (i.e. one-piece) with the two annular elements 11, 12, in the same number for each annular element (here four), which are regularly spaced following the circular perimeter of the annular element (or more generally, the direction defined by a circle circumscribing the basic outline of the body). The sequence of the junctions provides alternatively a junction to a first annular element 11 and a junction to a second annular element 12, where obviously “first” and “second” are entirely interchangeable references.
Two consecutive junctions on the same annular element, or more precisely their midpoints, define a module M of the pattern which repeats serially in identical form for a certain number of times (at least two) when following the aforesaid circle, wherein two consecutive modules clearly share at least one junction. For example, among the above-mentioned two junctions to the first annular element 11 (indicated with 13a′ and 13a″ in
In practice, the evolution or geometric path of the beams forming the pattern between one of the end junctions 13a′ of the module M to the first annular element 11 and the “central” junction 13b′ of the module to the second annular element 12 mirrors the evolution or path which joins such central junction 13b′ to the other end junction 13a″, with respect to the plane a passing through the axis X and the midpoint of the central junction. Generally speaking, said path substantially follows a curved line, typically but not necessarily having a variable curvature, a polyline with at least three straight line segments, or a combination of straight line segments and curved lines even having variable curvature.
In particular, in the module according to the presently described embodiment, a main beam-shaped member 13c′, 13c″ and 13d′ (the first two respectively from the two end junctions and the third from the central junction) branches off from each junction, extending axially, that is along a generatrix parallel to the axis X, with the first end of each member integral with the relative annular element and which identifies the junction, and the second end which reaches close to the opposite annular element by a distance S measured axially which advantageously may be equal to or less than about ⅕ of the elongation L.
Such second ends, or more precisely each second end and the second end of the consecutive main beam-shaped member (projecting from different annular elements: here therefore, for example, the second end of the main beam-shaped member 13d′ and the second end of the main beam-shaped member 13c′), are then joined by connection members 13e which according to the present embodiment, preferably have a serpentine shape, comprising at least one axial beam-shaped segment 13e′ (three here) extending parallel to the axis X for a length for example, equal to about L−2·S. Therefore, in this embodiment, the slots define a plurality of beam-shaped members/segments that are regularly spaced following the circumferential direction, the spacing being variable depending on the circumstances of use, absolute size and proportions of the body etc. The serpentine shape is then completed by circumferential bridging segments 13e″, with corners that, though rounded, are in any case substantially at right angles, and that can degenerate into sharp portions when the distance between two axial segments is close like in the example.
With reference to
With reference then also to
But even more generally, as shown in
The joint according to the invention, as in particular implemented based on the examples described above, but in general according to the features defined by the main appended claim, completely achieves the objects set out in the introductory part. The elastic joint here proposed is remarkably simple from a manufacturing standpoint, in particular by making use of laser cutting technology for metal materials; besides, the design considerations are assisted by the fact that the equivalent stiffness can be easily determined.
This results in affordable costs and a straightforward customization of the properties.
Since the body 1 is a single metal piece, when remaining in the range of elastic deformation, the advantage is attained of not dealing with hysteresis in the loading and unloading cycles. Moreover, precisely for making use of a single piece rigid body, the joint is a CV joint (aside from the deformation, which however is linear and known).
Due to its geometry, the joint allows for an intrinsic adjustment between the input and output axes when the coaxiality tolerance is not perfectly complied with. For it being inherently elastic, the joint is also compliant with an axial elasticity component which is useful when there is hyperstaticity between actuating and actuated device.
Finally, the elastic joint leaves an inner free space (indeed a remarkable one if compared to the overall bulk of the joint) for the arrangement of accessory components (wiring etc.) coaxially to the input and output devices.
Considering more thoroughly the issue of identifying the equivalent torsional rigidity, this can be easily calculated because, to a very good approximation, the beam-shaped components of the examples indicated above can be considered for example as an appropriate combination of cantilever beams, according to the schemes in
Mt=Twisting couple [N·mm]
R=Average radius of the cylinder [mm]
L1 . . . n=Free length of the beams [mm]
I1 . . . n=Flexural moments of inertia [mm4]
E=Young'"'"'s modulus [Mpa]
δ1 . . . n=Cantilever beam inflexion [mm]
K1 . . . n=Elastic constant of the spring [N·mm/rad]
Keqv=Overall equivalent elastic constant of the elastic joint [N·mm/rad]
The desired stiffness can be optimized by acting on the various geometric parameters, such as in particular, as mentioned, the thickness and the sizes of the beam-shaped segments or members. Obviously, a fundamental variable for obtaining the features desired is the material used: the most suitable materials are the metal materials used generally for mechanical constructions. Among them, steel, aluminium alloys and titanium alloys. Primarily, the fundamental value for choosing and obtaining the desired stiffness properties of the joint can be identified in the Young'"'"'s modulus of the material. The selection of the material to be used, as well as the desired stiffness, is in a direct connection with the extent of the load that the joint has to bear and the level of dimensional compactness that one wishes to obtain.
Then, to summarize, the slots can be made with laser cutting systems on a basic tubular body made of metal, such as a generally resistant and flexible steel e, e.g. spring steel (for example, Bohler W720 maraging steel with a Young'"'"'s modulus of 193 GPa and a yield stress of 1815 MPa). As far as compatible with the size of the slots and with the size of the cross-section of the whole element, manufacturing by traditional metal working machines (stock removal machining) may also be possible.
Other advantages which may result from using the joint according to the invention comprise:
the joint is usable for transmissions requiring an elastic joint between input and output with a known stiffness or torsion constant, without hysteresis and as a low-pass filter;
it can be coupled with a position transducer (e.g. a rotary encoder) as sensitive element for highly accurate torque sensors, which can be customized, provided with an axial bore and at a low cost;
usability simply as a hollow torsional spring.
The joint may have several applications, among which one of particular interest being robotics, and in particular wearable robotics. The sizes thereof and its features of rigidity and transmittable torque and its increased capability to be interfaced with the other elements make it a useful element for making elastic actuators for wearable robots and for robots generally. In these applications, it is indeed fundamental to use actuators provided with intrinsic compliance, with limited weights and volumes, albeit with the need to transmit relatively high torques and forces. The joint according to the invention, complete with all elements, may be assembled directly on the robot.
The present invention was described hereto with reference to preferred embodiments thereof. It is intended that other embodiments may exist which relate to the same inventive concept within the scope of protection of the claims here attached.