Title:
Whole Body Vibration Machine with Air Cushioning
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A whole body vibration machine includes a frame that supports a platform. The platform is coupled to the frame by an air cushioning system, which may include one or more pneumatic dampers mounted to isolate the frame from vibrations in the platform. The air cushioning system reduces noise and vibrations transferred to the environment, increases the stability of the platform, allows more weight to be placed on the platform, and generally increases the efficiency of the system (more energy to the muscles means more effective training).



Inventors:
Schuurman E. J. (Huizen, NL)
Diekman M. A. (Huizen, NL)
Application Number:
11/741488
Publication Date:
09/20/2007
Filing Date:
04/27/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/51
International Classes:
A63B15/02; A63B22/00; A63B71/00
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Primary Examiner:
DEMILLE, DANTON D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FENWICK & WEST LLP (MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A whole body vibration machine comprising: a frame; a platform coupled to the frame; an actuating system coupled to the platform for causing an oscillation of the platform relative to the frame; and an air cushioning system coupling the platform and the frame for isolating vibrations in the platform from the frame.

2. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, wherein the air cushioning system comprises a plurality of pneumatic dampers coupled between the platform and the frame.

3. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, wherein the air cushioning system is coupled to the platform near opposing edges thereof.

4. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, wherein the air cushioning system is coupled to the platform near one or more corners of the platform.

5. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, wherein the actuating system comprises a pair of weights each configured to rotate in opposing directions about an axis of rotation, each weight mounted to have a center of gravity offset from the axis of rotation for the weight, the weights thereby configured to cause vibrations in the platform using inertial forces.

6. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, wherein the frame is arranged to secure the platform in a substantially parallel orientation with respect to a ground surface on which the frame is configured to rest.

7. The whole body vibration machine of claim 1, further comprising: a control system coupled to the actuation system for controlling an oscillation of the platform.

8. A method for providing a whole body vibration treatment, the method comprising: receiving a load applied to a platform of a whole body vibration machine, the platform supported by a frame; oscillating the platform; isolating the frame from vibrations in the platform using pneumatic damping.

Description:

BACKGROUND

This invention relates generally to whole body vibration machines, and in particular to isolating the vibrations produced by a whole body vibration machine.

Whole body vibration machines have been developed for several applications, including exercise training, sports therapy, and medical treatments. A whole body vibration machine typically includes a platform mounted on a frame. The platform is typically mounted to the frame and connected to an actuator that causes the platform to vibrate in a vertical, linear motion. The actuator may comprise motors the rotate in opposite directions from each other, where weights are mounted offset from a rotating axis of the motor. The oscillating inertial forces caused by to the rotating offset weights cause the platform to vibrate. The machine may include controls to allow a user to adjust the motion of the platform, such as the frequency and amplitude of vibration. One example of a whole body vibration machine is described in U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005/0131319, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

In one example use, a person stands on the platform of a whole body vibration machine. The person then bends his or her legs so that the muscles in the legs are tense and then turns the machine on. The oscillating motion of the platform exercises the muscles of the leg in an efficient and effective manner. Many other exercises and treatments are possible with various other configurations of the user's body and the user's position relative to the platform (e.g., sitting on the platform in a half sit-up position).

While the vibrations of the platform are beneficial to a user, they are not necessarily good for the machine or the surrounding environment. Accordingly, there is a need to isolate the platform from the other parts of the machine (e.g., the frame and any components coupled thereto, such as the electronics for a control system) as well as from the environment (e.g., the ground on which the machine rests). Existing whole body vibration machines attempt to deal with these vibrations using dampers that are made from solid rubber blocks in a specific shape (diamond shape), but these rubber blocks are insufficient for this purpose. As a result, these machines are very noisy for the user and the environment, where the vibrations from the platform can be transmitted into the ground and other attached structures. These deficiencies limit the practical applications of existing machines, which, for example, cannot generally be used above the ground floor in a building due to the resulting vibrations.

As existing methods for isolating the oscillations of a platform of a whole body vibration machine lead to many drawbacks, improved techniques for isolating this motion are needed.

SUMMARY

A whole body vibration machine typically includes a frame that supports a platform. As opposed to previous systems that used solid rubber damping blocks to reduce the transfer of vibrations from the platform to the frame, embodiments of the invention use an air cushioning system to isolate these vibrations. The air cushioning system may comprise one or more pneumatic dampers mounted to isolate the frame from vibrations in the platform. Compared to previous systems, the air cushioning system in various embodiments may result in one or more of the following benefits: a reduction of noise and vibration transferred to the frame and environment; an increase in the stability of the platform, especially for off-center loads; an ability to place more weight on the platform; and an increase in the efficiency of the system, which means more energy to the muscles and more effective training, by avoiding energy transfer into the frame and the surrounding environment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing of a whole body vibration machine, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a whole body vibration machine, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a partial view of a whole body vibration machine showing an actuation system and an air cushioning system, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of a platform of a whole body vibration machine, showing an arrangement of pneumatic dampers, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

The figures depict various embodiments of the present invention for purposes of illustration only. One skilled in the art will readily recognize from the following discussion that alternative embodiments of the structures and methods illustrated herein may be employed without departing from the principles of the invention described herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Whole body vibration machines have been developed for several applications, including exercise training, sports therapy, and medical treatments. FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a whole body vibration machine in accordance with one embodiment of the invention, and FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a particular design of a whole body vibration machine that includes the elements shown in FIG. 1.

In the illustrated embodiment, the whole body vibration machine comprises a platform 10 that is coupled to a frame 20 in a way that allows the platform to move in at least one direction (as shown, the vertical direction). In one embodiment, the frame 20 is arranged to secure the platform 10 in a substantially parallel orientation with respect to a ground surface on which the frame is configured to rest. In this way, when the machine is placed on level ground, a load on the platform 10 will apply its weight substantially orthogonal to the platform 10, which may be parallel to the direction of oscillation.

The platform 10 and the frame 20 are connected together by a structure that comprises an air cushioning system 40. In various embodiments, additional damping or cushioning structures may be used in combination with the air cushioning system 40 to couple the platform 10 to the frame 20. Rigid, non-damping structures may also be part of this structure. Also coupled to the platform 10 is an actuation system 30, which is configured to cause the platform 10 to vibrate. The whole body vibration machine may further comprise a control system 50 coupled to control the actuation system. A user may use the control system 50 to control the actuation system 30 and thus the motion of the platform 10.

One embodiment of an actuation system 30 is shown in more detail in FIG. 3. As illustrated, the actuation system 30 comprises a pair of rotational motors 32, where each motor 32 is attached to one or more weights 34. The weights 34 are attached to the motors 32 so that their center of gravity is offset from the axis of rotation 36 of the rotational motor 32 to which each weight 34 is connected. It can be appreciated that rotation of the offset weights 34 by each motor 32 results in an inertial force in a rotating radial direction from the axis of rotation 36. This inertial force is transferred to the platform 10, which is connected to the frame of the motors 32.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the motors 32 are arranged so that they rotate the weights 34 in opposite directions about their corresponding axes of rotation 36. In one embodiment, the weights 34 are in phase (i.e., the weights 34 are in the down, up, inside, and outside positions at the same time), rotated at the same frequency, and have the same mass. In such a scenario, it can be appreciated that the inertial forces cancel in the lateral direction (i.e., parallel to the platform 10), and the inertial forces add in the vertical direction (i.e., orthogonal to the platform 10). The net result of the actuation system 30 is thus to transfer a vertical oscillating motion due to the rotating offset weights 34 to cause corresponding vibrations in the platform 10.

The control system 50 may provide for simple on/off control of the machine, or it may also allow a user to adjust the vibration of the platform 10. For example, the control system 50 may allow a user to adjust the frequency of the platform's oscillation (e.g., settings of 25, 30, 35, or 50 Hz) by adjusting the motors 32. Alternatively, the control system 50 may allow a user to adjust the amplitude of the platform's oscillations (e.g., from a low value in a range of 2 to 3 mm to a high value in a range of 5 to 6 mm). The amplitude of oscillation may be adjusted, for example, by adjusting the amount that the centers of gravity of the weights 34 are offset from the corresponding axes of rotation 36. Such an adjustment will be made, in one embodiment, by including a plurality of offset weights 34 for each motor 32, and by shifting the angle of some of the weights 34 relative to the others for a motor 32 so that the net center of gravity is closer to the motor's axis of rotation 36.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the actuation system 30 results in a vertical oscillation of the platform 10. However, any other type of vibration may be imparted to the platform 10 in other embodiments of the invention. For example, the actuation system 30 may be configured to cause a tilting motion in the platform 10, or the oscillation may be random using a single, unbalanced motor 32. Accordingly, a variety of vibrations may be imparted to the platform 10 by any appropriate mechanism without departing from the scope of the invention.

In FIG. 3, the air cushioning system comprises a plurality of pneumatic dampers 40 that are arranged to couple the platform 10 to the frame 20. The pneumatic dampers 40 may be any type of damper that performs vibrational isolation at least in part using a gas. In one embodiment, the pneumatic dampers 40 each comprise an elastic material that encloses a gas, such as air, nitrogen, or any other suitable gas.

FIG. 4 shows an underside of the platform 10, illustrating an arrangement of the pneumatic dampers 40 with respect to the platform 10. In this embodiment, the pneumatic dampers 40 are coupled to the platform 10 at or near the corners and/or the edges of the platform 10. This increases the stability of the platform 10 when a user stands on it.

As applied to whole body vibration machines, air cushioning has specific properties to isolate vibrations, to damp progressively with load, and to stabilize loads. These properties make the air cushioning system 40 superior for whole body vibration machines as compared to dampers that simply use a solid block of viscoelastic material for damping vibrations. For example, embodiments of the invention described herein may achieve one or more of the following benefits over such existing machines: a reduction of noise and vibration transferred to the frame and environment; an increase in the stability of the platform, especially for off-center loads; an ability to place more weight on the platform; and an increase in the efficiency ( more energy to the muscles means more effective training) of the system by avoiding energy transfer into the frame and the surrounding environment. While these benefits are possible, not all of these benefits must necessarily achieved by every embodiment of the invention and are therefore not required to fall within the scope of the invention described herein.

More specifically, the air cushioning system 40 in various embodiments allows the whole body vibration machine to be made very silent during operation, for the user as well as for the surrounding environment. Moreover, the air cushioning system 40 makes the machine very effective and efficient. In certain embodiments, for example, 85% of the energy from the actuation system 30 remains in the platform 10. In use, the vibrations cause muscle contraction in a user, and this muscle contraction can be measured. Embodiments of the invention can achieve 10 to 15% better muscle contraction than the best existing machines without the air cushioning system 40.

Moreover, with air cushioning, the damping increases with an increased displacement. This results in a more stable platform during operation, since when a user stands near an edge of the platform, the displacement of or load applied to the air cushioning system at the edge is greater. This, in turn, causes the air cushioning system to increase its damping effect at that location, thereby avoiding uneven vibrations of the entire platform.

In addition, the progressive damping action of the air cushioning system 40, which increases with the applied load, reduces the effect of the weight placed on the platform 10 on the amplitude of the platform's oscillation. By lessening the effect of weight placed on the platform 10, embodiments of the invention allow far more load ( up to 250 kilogram, compared to the others 130 Kilogram max. load) on the platform 10—and thus a greater range of users who can use the machine.

Lastly, it may be desirable to produce a very specific and accurate number of oscillations in the platform 10, as the vibrations are important for the effect on the user. Preferably, the vibrations are the same over the surface of the platform 10 in one embodiment. To achieve a high degree of uniformity, the energy from the actuation system 30 should be transformed into the movement of the platform 10 in a straight line (e.g., a vertical oscillation for a horizontally mounted platform 10), and any deviation from this line makes the machine less effective. By using the air cushioning system 40, the machine's platform 10 is more stable with respect to side movements and or other disturbing movements in different directions (which can occur, for example, when a user stands to the side of a platform or applies a lateral force to the platform by moving or jumping on it). This, in turn, increases the uniformity of the vibrations in the platform 10.

The foregoing description of the embodiments of the invention has been presented for the purpose of illustration; it is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Persons skilled in the relevant art can appreciate that many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings. Accordingly, the disclosure of the embodiments of the invention is intended to be illustrative, but not limiting, of the scope of the invention, which is set forth in the following claims.