Title:
Wide Opening Vehicle Door with Easy-Reach Feature
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A door return device for a vehicle door has a travel path including an easy-reach position and a fully open position. A housing is coupled to one of the vehicle door or the door frame and has a chamber containing a working fluid. A link is coupled to the other one of the vehicle door or the door frame and is movable into and out of the housing in response to travel of the vehicle door. An end-damping piston is slidable in the chamber and includes a fluid passage between opposite sides. A return spring is disposed between the end-damping piston and one longitudinal end of the chamber. When the return spring is substantially unloaded then the end-damping piston is positioned relative to the one longitudinal end such that the vehicle door is away from the fully open position at least as far as the easy-reach position.



Inventors:
Lange, Richard J. (Troy, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/104481
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
04/17/2008
Assignee:
GM GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY OPERATIONS, INC. (Detroit, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
296/146.9
International Classes:
B60J5/04; E05B1/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20100095484HINGE WITH ASEISMATIC FUNCTIONApril, 2010Shen
20090200903Cabinets and mirrors selectively mounted on hinges supporting room doors on door frames, hinges for such mountings, and methods for so mountingAugust, 2009Tassin et al.
20090060721BUSHING AND CLOCK SPRING ASSEMBLY FOR MOVEABLE TURBINE VANEMarch, 2009Davis et al.
20020066160Auto-returning device of a hinge for a glass doorJune, 2002Chiang
20100050389FURNITURE SLIDE ASSEMBLIES AND METHOD OF USEMarch, 2010Robinson et al.
20050081332Adjustable pin hingeApril, 2005Franchini
20030038008Cart-separable traveling bagFebruary, 2003Han
20090077769Portable terminal apparatusMarch, 2009Kaito
20030150082Suitcase handle structureAugust, 2003Chen
20040148738Bracket for mounting a center pivot shower doorAugust, 2004Moss
20090229078PCW QUICK DISCONNECT TOOLSeptember, 2009Rascon



Primary Examiner:
MORGAN, EMILY M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MacMillan, Sobanski & Todd, LLC - GM (Toledo, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A door return device for a vehicle door having a travel path between a closed position in a door frame and a fully open position, wherein the travel path includes an easy-reach position spaced by a predetermined distance from the fully open position, the door return device comprising: a housing adapted to be coupled to one of the vehicle door or the door frame and having a chamber containing a working fluid; a link adapted to be coupled to the other one of the vehicle door or the door frame and movable into and out of the housing in response to travel of the vehicle door along the travel path; an end-damping piston slidable in the chamber and coupled to the link, wherein the end-damping piston partitions the chamber into first and second subchambers, and wherein the end-damping piston includes a surface for providing a fluid passage between the first and second subchambers; and a return spring disposed between the end-damping piston and one longitudinal end of the chamber, wherein when the return spring is substantially unloaded then the end-damping piston is positioned relative to the one longitudinal end such that the vehicle door is away from the fully open position at least as far as the easy-reach position; wherein manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position is damped by flow of the working fluid through the fluid passage, wherein manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position loads the return spring, and wherein when the vehicle door is released at the fully open position it gradually moves to the easy-reach position by the unloading of the return spring while the gradual closing movement of the vehicle door is damped by flow of the working fluid.

2. The device of claim 1 wherein the end-damping piston includes a bore for providing at least a portion of the surface for providing a fluid passage between the first and second subchambers.

3. The device of claim 2 wherein the housing includes a substantially longitudinal groove generally radially spaced from the end-damping piston such that the surface for providing a fluid passage between the first and second subchambers further includes an outer edge of the end-damping piston.

4. The device of claim 3 wherein the longitudinal groove is tapered so that a cross-sectional area of the longitudinal groove is generally decreasing in a direction corresponding to increased loading of the return spring.

5. The device of claim 1 wherein the housing includes a substantially longitudinal groove generally radially spaced from the end-damping piston such that the surface for providing a fluid passage between the first and second subchambers comprises an outer edge of the end-damping piston.

6. The device of claim 5 wherein the longitudinal groove is tapered so that a cross-sectional area of the longitudinal groove is generally decreasing in a direction corresponding to increased loading of the return spring.

7. The device of claim 1 wherein the return spring is comprised of a compression spring.

8. The device of claim 1 wherein the return spring is comprised of an extension spring.

9. The device of claim 1 wherein the vehicle door is a swinging door and wherein the link provides a door check link function.

10. The device of claim 1 wherein the vehicle door is a sliding door, and the door return device is adapted to be mounted as an end bumper on a sliding door track.

11. A door holding and return device for a swinging door of a vehicle wherein the door pivots along a travel path between a closed position in a door frame and a fully open position, wherein the travel path includes an easy-reach position spaced by a predetermined distance from the fully open position, the door return device comprising: a housing adapted to be coupled to one of the vehicle door or the door frame and having a chamber containing a working fluid; a link adapted to be coupled to the other one of the vehicle door or the door frame and movable into and out of the housing in response to travel of the vehicle door along the travel path; a hold piston fixed to the link and slidable in the chamber to hold the door at any position where it has been stopped between the easy-reach position and the closed position; an end-damping piston slidable in the chamber and slidably coupled to the link to contact the hold piston, wherein the end-damping piston includes a surface for providing a fluid passage between opposite sides thereof; and a return spring disposed between the end-damping piston and one longitudinal end of the chamber, wherein when the return spring is substantially unloaded then the end-damping piston is positioned relative to the one longitudinal end such that the vehicle door is away from the fully open position at least as far as the easy-reach position; wherein manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position is damped by flow of the working fluid through the fluid passage, wherein manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position loads the return spring as a result of the hold piston moving the end-damping piston, and wherein when the vehicle door is released at the fully open position it gradually moves to the easy-reach position by the unloading of the return spring while the gradual closing movement of the vehicle door is damped by flow of the working fluid.

12. The device of claim 11 wherein the housing includes a substantially longitudinal groove generally radially spaced from the end-damping piston such that the surface for providing a fluid passage between opposite sides thereof comprises an outer edge of the end-damping piston.

13. The device of claim 12 wherein the longitudinal groove is tapered so that a cross-sectional area of the longitudinal groove is generally decreasing in a direction corresponding to increased loading of the return spring, thereby providing variable damping during the gradual closing movement.

14. The device of claim 11 wherein the return spring is comprised of a compression spring.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to end-of-movement damping for doors of motor vehicles, and more specifically to a return device for assisting in the re-closing of a vehicle door after the opening motion has been damped.

Wide opening doors for motor vehicles (i.e., a door with a large range of movement to clear the door opening) have several advantages. From a consumer standpoint, a wider opening is beneficial when needing to load large items into the vehicle. From a manufacturer standpoint, since many assembly operations are performed after a door has been installed but with the door swung open to its maximum extent (e.g., connecting wiring or other components in the hinge area between the forward edge of the door and the door frame), these assembly operations become easier the greater the opening range of the door.

A disadvantage of a wide opening door becomes evident when a vehicle occupant attempts to close the door. After being seated inside the vehicle, the occupant may be at too great a distance from the door pull handle to be able to conveniently reach it. In addition, the door must initially be pulled in the radial direction (i.e., toward the back of the vehicle instead of toward the occupant). This results in a non-ergonomic motion being required of the seated occupant since the initial sideways movement has to be generated with the arm outstretched.

So that the manufacturing advantage of a wide opening door can be realized without creating customer inconvenience when closing the door, it is known to install door hinges with a wide range of motion to facilitate the necessary assembly operations. Once those operations are completed at the assembly plant, a door check link is connected between the door and door frame that thereafter restricts the range of door motion so that the vehicle occupant is better able to reach it for closing. However, it becomes more difficult to load large items through the door opening because of interference from the door.

Door check links have traditionally provided detents to preferentially hold an open door in various predetermined positions, including at the fully open position. More recently, door holding units have been introduced using hydraulic cylinders to provide positive retention of a manually positioned door at infinitely many positions across the full range of door motion. One example of such a door holding unit is the DORSTOPĀ® device from Stabilus GmbH of Koblenz, Germany. As shown in U.S. Pat. No. 7,066,310, it is also known to provide damping (i.e., energy absorption) at the fully open end of the door travel using a separate end-damping piston that is acted upon by a main holding piston. In the prior art, even though a reset spring may be provided to reset the end-damping piston to its original position after being released by the holding piston, the door has been kept in its fully open position by the holding piston until the door is manually moved out of the open position by the user. In fact, the reset spring was intentionally designed not to induce any door motion since the device was meant to hold the door in any position in which is was placed by the user.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The present invention combines in a single device the end-damping of door motion with a slow, controlled partial return of the door from the fully open position to provide an easy-reach closing capability for a wide opening door.

In one aspect of the invention, a door return device is provided for a vehicle door having a travel path between a closed position in a door frame and a fully open position. The travel path includes an easy-reach position spaced by a predetermined distance from the fully open position. A housing is adapted to be coupled to one of the vehicle door or the door frame and has a chamber containing a working fluid. A link is adapted to be coupled to the other one of the vehicle door or the door frame and is movable into and out of the housing in response to travel of the vehicle door along the travel path. An end-damping piston is slidable in the chamber and is coupled to the link, wherein the end-damping piston partitions the chamber into first and second subchambers. The end-damping piston includes a surface for providing a fluid passage between the first and second subchambers. A return spring is disposed between the end-damping piston and one longitudinal end of the chamber. When the return spring is substantially unloaded, then, the end-damping piston is positioned relative to the one longitudinal end such that the vehicle door is away from the fully open position at least as far as the easy-reach position. Manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position is damped by flow of the working fluid through the fluid passage. Manual opening movement of the vehicle door into the fully open position loads the return spring. When the vehicle door is released at the fully open position it gradually moves to the easy-reach position by the unloading of the return spring, and the gradual closing movement of the vehicle door is damped by flow of the working fluid.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagram showing a range of motion for a vehicle door.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a door return device in a position corresponding to the door being more closed than an easy-reach position.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a door return device in a position corresponding to the door being in its fully open position.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a door return device in a position corresponding to the door being in the easy-reach position.

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal cross section showing a tapered groove for controlling fluid flow around the end-damping piston.

FIG. 6 is a top, exterior view of the housing with the tapered groove.

FIG. 7 is a cross section taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a top view showing an alternative embodiment of a door return device for a sliding door.

FIG. 9 is a cross section of a door return device adapted for the embodiment of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a cross section of an alternative door return device adapted for the embodiment of FIG. 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a vehicle door 10 is attached to a door frame 11 by a hinge 12. Door 10 is normally opened using an outside door handle 13 and closed using an inside door handle 14. Of course, door 10 can also be moved by pushing on other portions thereof. Door 10 can be manipulated by a user (e.g., vehicle occupant) to swing through a range of motion according to an arc 15 with a fully open position 16 and an easy-reach position 17. A door hold & return device 18 is coupled between door 10 and frame 11 to provide a door holding function for any position between the door closed position and easy-reach position 17 where the user manually stops the door. An end-damping function is provided by device 18 between easy-reach position 17 and fully open position 16. When the user releases door 10 (i.e., stops applying opening force) in the range between positions 16 and 17, door 10 gradually returns to easy-reach position 17 by action of device 18 as will be described below. Device 18 is anchored to frame 11 at a position that does not coincide with the center axis of door rotation so that the greater the door opening angle the greater the extension of device 18. Thus, device 18 is contracted to its shortest length when door 10 is in its closed position and is extended to its maximum length when door 10 is in fully open position 16.

A first embodiment of a door holding and return device of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 2-4. Device 20 includes a housing 21 which may be preferably formed as a cylindrical shell having an interior space for containing various components and a working fluid 22 therein. For assembly purposes, housing 21 preferably comprises a plurality of sections that may be joined (e.g., welded) after installation of internal parts. A mounting block 23 is provided on housing 21 for mounting to one or the other of the door and the door frame. In a typical vehicle application, housing 21 may be mounted to an interior wall of a door shell. A link 24 extending from housing 21 has a mounting section 25 for mounting to the other of the door or door frame in a conventional manner. Within the inside of housing 21, link 24 is fixedly connected with a hold piston 26 so that piston 26 and link 24 are jointly slidable within the interior chamber of housing 21. A seal/guide 27 is mounted to one longitudinal end of housing 21 to slidingly accept link 24 so that working fluid 22 is not lost through a hole 28 where link 24 exits housing 21. Hold piston 26 includes various valve structures for allowing working fluid 22 to pass through piston 26 when link 24 is forcibly moved in the longitudinal direction. The work required to force working fluid 22 through the valves and passages within hold piston 26 are what hold the door connected to link 24 at any desired position in the absence of a sufficiently large push against the door.

In order to provide end damping, an end-damping piston 30 is slidably retained on link 24 between hold piston 26 and longitudinal end seal 27. An orifice or passage way 31 (which may include an internal valve if desired) is provided in end-damping piston 30 to allow working fluid 22 to flow between opposite sides of end-damping piston 30 when it is forced to move. A return spring 32 is disposed between end-damping piston 30 and longitudinal end seal 27.

As shown in FIG. 2, return spring 32 is substantially unloaded (i.e., spring 32 is a compression spring with no compression forces being applied to it), and hold piston 26 is spaced from end-damping piston 30 such that the door is at a position somewhere between the closed position and the easy-reach position. Thus, hold piston 26 moves through fluid 22 in a conventional manner to provide infinitely many holding positions of the door across its movement range up to the easy-reach position. As the door is increasingly opened, hold piston 26 eventually contacts end-damping piston 30 at the moment the door enters the easy-reach position. When link 24 continues to move to the left as shown in FIG. 3 as a result of the user opening the door past the easy-reach position, end-damping piston 30 moves in the same direction to compress spring 32. As end-damping piston 30 moves through working fluid 22, movement is damped because of the restricted flow provided by passageway 31. The compression of return spring 32 provides additional damping or energy absorption as the door moves to the full open position, but the damping is primarily provided by the manipulation of working fluid 22 through passage 31. By damping the opening energy of the door, there is less chance of the door bouncing back from the open position.

When the operator eventually releases the door (e.g., after a large load has been successfully placed into the vehicle through the fully opened door), return spring 32 will have been compressed at least to some proportion of its maximum compression. In all previously known hold open devices, the hold piston would maintain its position at the fully open position and all other positions without being influenced by the return spring. In the present invention, however, return spring 32 provides a sufficient spring force to move end-damping piston 30, link 24, and hold piston 26 to the right until the easy-reach position is obtained as shown in FIG. 4. It should be noted that the end-damping and return function shown in FIGS. 2-4 can be provided by devices either with or without including the holding function at positions more closed than the easy-reach position. Thus, end-damping piston 30 partitions the chamber of working fluid into first and second sub-chambers wherein the inner surface of passage-way 31 provides a fluid passage between the first and second sub-chambers.

The present invention can be adapted to provide variable damping at different positions of the end-damping piston in order to achieve better energy absorption during full open and a more uniform return speed for the easy-reach function. As shown in FIG. 5, a tapered groove 33 is provided along the interior surface of housing 21 in the region traversed by piston 30 during the end-damping function. Tapered groove 33 has a variable cross-sectional area and provides an alternative flow path for working fluid 22 around an outer circumferential surface 34 of piston 30. The taper of groove 33 causes the cross-sectional area available for flow of working fluid 22 to be reduced as piston 30 moves closer to the end of housing 21 (i.e., toward the fully open position). Thus, the amount of damping varies with changing position of piston 30 to provide an increased braking force as the door approaches the full-open position to thereby create a smoother stop to the door movement. Conversely, when the door is released and the automatic return to the easy-reach position is executing, return spring 32 provides progressively less return force the closer it gets to its unloaded position. Since groove 33 provides a progressively larger cross section for flow of working fluid 22, spring 32 can maintain a more constant speed through the entire range of movement up to the easy-reach position.

As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, tapered groove 33 may preferably be obtained using a metal rolling process. Alternatively, cutting or drilling operations can be used to form the taper groove from the inside of housing 21. Tapered groove 33 can be used with or without passage 31 in end-damping piston 30. In a preferred embodiment, the average cross-sectional area of tapered groove 33 is approximately equal to the flow cross-sectional area of passageway 31. The tapered profile of groove 33 can also be adapted to provide return speed profiles other than a substantially uniform speed, if desired.

The present invention can also be utilized in conjunction with a sliding door in order to provide end-damping and easy-reach return functions without any hold function. As shown in FIG. 8, a sliding door 40 has a door bracket 41 pivotably connected with a roller bracket 42 that traverses a roller track 43 mounted along a side of the vehicle. Sliding vehicle doors typically employ three different sets of roller bracket/roller tracks with upper and lower roller brackets attached to the front edge of the sliding door and a center roller bracket connected to the rear edge of the sliding door. A set of rollers 44 on roller bracket 42 support door 40 and traverse roller track 43 between the closed position and a fully open position. The present invention can be utilized to provide end-damping and an easy-reach return function as follows. A bumper 45 carried by roller bracket 42 contacts a bumper link 46 of a return device 47 mounted at the end of track 43. When bumper 45 contacts bumper link 46, door 40 may be further pushed so that bumper link 46 is retracted within device 47 until sliding door 40 reaches its fully open position. Device 47 provides damping and energy absorption to slow the travel of sliding door 40 as previously described. In order to assist vehicle occupants in the effort to reach sliding door 40 in order to close it after having entered the vehicle, bumper link 46 returns to its extended or easy-reach position thereby moving sliding door 40 in the closing direction in a slow, controlled manner.

A first embodiment of door return device 47 for providing end-damping and easy-reach automatic return without permanent connection to the door is shown in FIG. 9. A housing 50 contains a working fluid and an end-damping piston 51. A return spring 52 is shown as a compression spring which is located between piston 51 and a back longitudinal wall 53 of housing 50. An end-seal 54 receives link 46 to maintain alignment of link 46 and to prevent escape of the working fluid. Damping is controlled by a passage 55 through piston 51 and/or a tapered groove 56 in housing 50 as previously described. A soft, rubber bumper 57 may be mounted to the end of link 46 to avoid any displeasing sound or shock when impacting the roller bracket. Since return spring 52 acts as a compression spring, it can be placed between piston 51 and end wall 53 without needing any fastening connections.

An alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 10 utilizes an extension spring. Thus, housing 60 receives an end-damping piston 61 fixably mounted to link 46. Extension spring 62 is fixably connected to piston 61 at one end and at its other end to an anchor point proximate an end seal 63. The connection can be provided by an adhesive applied to end seal 63, or spring 62 can be joined to housing 60 using an adhesive or other mechanical mounting. Damping during the retraction of link 46 into housing 60 is provided by a passage 64 in piston 61 and/or a tapered groove 65. The energy absorption is also supplemented by extension of spring 62. When the door is released and no longer forced against link 46, extension spring 62 returns to its unloaded state shown in FIG. 10 to push the door back to its easy-reach position.

While certain embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail, those familiar with the art to which this invention relates will recognize various alternative designs and embodiments for practicing the invention as defined by the following claims.