Title:
ADJUSTABLE PROPELLER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An adjustable propeller assembly that includes a propeller housing and a drive shaft. A propeller shaft is linked with a propeller. The propeller is linked with a pivotal housing. A coupling member is connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft. The coupling member pivotally transmits a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft. An actuator is connected to the pivotal housing. The actuator moves the pivotal housing and propeller wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing



Inventors:
Snow, Scott (Commerce, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/547310
Publication Date:
09/02/2010
Filing Date:
08/25/2009
Assignee:
Marine 1, LLC (New Baltimore, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
440/53
International Classes:
B63H5/125
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
AVILA, STEPHEN P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DINSMORE & SHOHL LLP (TROY, MI, US)
Claims:
1. An adjustable propeller assembly comprising: a propeller housing; a drive shaft; a first pivot member attached to the housing; a propeller shaft linked with a propeller; a second pivot member coupled with the propeller; a coupling member connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft, the coupling member pivotally transmitting a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft; and an actuator connected to the second pivot member, the actuator moving the second pivot member and propeller about the first pivot member wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

2. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the second pivot is adjustable about a horizontal axis with respect to the propeller housing.

3. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the propeller is adjustable at rates to dampen motion in pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel.

4. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the coupling member is splined and connected with corresponding splines formed on the drive shaft and propeller shaft.

5. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the first pivot is inserted into a cavity formed in the propeller housing and joined to the propeller housing.

6. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the coupling member is selected from u-joints, flexible shafts, ball gears and other couplings.

7. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 1 wherein the second pivot member includes a cylindrical body having a pair of tabs including bosses formed thereon.

8. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 7 wherein the second pivot member includes an inner surface having a ledge formed thereon.

9. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 8 including a bearing assembly disposed in the second pivot member.

10. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 9 wherein the bearing assembly includes a bearing retainer and first and second bearings disposed in the bearing retainer, the bearing retainer positioned to engage the ledge formed on the inner surface of the second pivot member.

11. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 7 wherein the first pivot member includes a cylindrical body having a pair of tabs including slots that receive the bosses of the second pivot member.

12. An adjustable propeller assembly comprising: a propeller housing; a drive shaft; a first pivot member attached to the housing; a propeller shaft linked with a propeller; a second pivot member coupled with the propeller; a third pivot member connected to the first and second pivot members; a coupling member connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft, the coupling member pivotally transmitting a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft; and actuators connected to the second pivot member and third pivot member, the actuators moving the second pivot member and propeller about the third pivot member and the third pivot member about the first pivot member wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

13. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the second pivot is adjustable about a horizontal axis with respect to the propeller housing and the third pivot is adjustable about a vertical axis with respect to the propeller housing.

14. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the propeller is adjustable at rates to dampen motion in pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel.

15. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the coupling member is splined and connected with corresponding splines formed on the drive shaft and propeller shaft.

16. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the first pivot is inserted into a cavity formed in the propeller housing and joined to the propeller housing.

17. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the coupling member is selected from u-joints, flexible shafts, ball gears and other couplings.

18. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the third pivot member includes a ring-shaped body having bosses formed on the exterior of the ring-shaped body.

19. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 12 wherein the second pivot member includes a cylindrical body having a pair of tabs including holes formed thereon, the holes receiving a portion of the bosses formed on the third pivot member.

20. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 19 wherein the second pivot member includes an inner surface having a ledge formed thereon.

21. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 20 including a bearing assembly disposed in the second pivot member.

22. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 21 wherein the bearing assembly includes a bearing retainer and first and second bearings disposed in the bearing retainer, the bearing retainer positioned to engage the ledge formed on the inner surface of the second pivot member.

23. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 19 wherein the first pivot member includes a cylindrical body having a pair of tabs including holes that receive a portion of the bosses of the third pivot member.

24. An adjustable propeller assembly comprising: a propeller housing; a drive shaft; a propeller shaft linked with a propeller, the propeller linked with a pivotal housing; a coupling member connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft, the coupling member pivotally transmitting a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft; and an actuator connected to the pivotal housing, the actuator moving the pivotal housing and propeller wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

25. The adjustable propeller assembly of claim 24 wherein the propeller is adjustable at rates to dampen motion in pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/693,284 filed Jun. 23, 2005, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/091,449 filed Aug. 25, 2008 which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to marine propulsion mechanisms.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Marine vessels typically include propulsion mechanisms that are capable of propelling a vessel through a body of water. Some propulsion mechanisms are capable of being manipulated to steer the marine vessel. For example, an outboard motor may be rotated around its vertical axis to steer a vessel having the outboard attached. Some propulsion mechanisms are capable of being manipulated to both steer and trim the marine vessel. For example, an outboard mechanism may be rotated around its vertical axis to steer a vessel and rotated around its transverse axis to trim a vessel having the outboards attached. However, such trim adjusted outboards do not damp motion and are slow moving. Additionally, such trim systems typically move the entire drive.

Marine vessels may be subject to various dynamic forces generated by its propulsion system as well as the dynamic environment in which it operates. For example, forces from the action of waves or wind against the vessel may apply dynamic inputs to the motion of a vessel. Additionally, the dynamic forces generated destabilize the vessel's attitude as well as affect the overall performance of the vessel.

There is therefore a need in the art for a propulsion mechanism that adjusts a thrust vector of the propulsion mechanism and provides motion damping for a marine vessel. There is also a need in the art for an improved propulsion mechanism that adjusts a thrust vector at the propeller.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect there is disclosed an adjustable propeller assembly that includes a propeller housing and a drive shaft. A propeller shaft is linked with a propeller. The propeller is linked with a pivotal housing. A coupling member is connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft. The coupling member pivotally transmits a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft. An actuator is connected to the pivotal housing. The actuator moves the pivotal housing and propeller wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

In another aspect there is disclosed an adjustable propeller assembly that includes a propeller housing and a drive shaft. A first pivot member is attached to the propeller housing. A propeller shaft is linked with a propeller. A second pivot member is coupled with the propeller. A coupling member is connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft. The coupling member pivotally transmits a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft. An actuator is connected to the second pivot member. The actuator moves the second pivot member and propeller about the first pivot member wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

In a further aspect there is disclosed an adjustable propeller assembly that includes a propeller housing and a drive shaft. A first pivot member is attached to the housing. A propeller shaft is linked with a propeller. A second pivot member is coupled with the propeller. A third pivot member is connected to the first and second pivot members. A coupling member is connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft. The coupling member pivotally transmits a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft. Actuators are connected to the second pivot member and third pivot member. The actuators move the second pivot member and propeller about the third pivot member and the third pivot member about the first pivot member wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of one embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of a second embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of an alternate coupling device of the adjustable propeller assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of an alternate coupling device of the adjustable propeller assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly in a downward pitch and steered position;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly in an upward pitch and steered position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Differential and differentially are defined within this document as unequal, off center and/or involving differences in the angle, speed, rate, direction, direction of motion, output, force, moment, inertia, mass, balance, application of comparable forces, etc.

Dynamic and dynamically may be defined as the immediate action that takes place at the moment they are needed. Immediate, in this application, means that the control action occurs in a manner that is responsive to the extent that it prevents or mitigates vessel motions and attitudes before they would otherwise occur in the uncontrolled situation. Someone skilled in the art understands the relationship between sensed motion parameters and required effector response in terms of the maximum overall delay that can exist while still achieving the control objectives. Dynamic may be used in describing interactive hardware and software systems involving differing forces and may be characterized by continuous change and/or activity. Dynamic may also be used when describing the interaction between a vessel and the environment. As stated above, marine vessels may be subject to various dynamic forces generated by its propulsion system as well as the environment in which it operates.

A vessel attitude may be defined as relative to three rotational axes, as detailed in FIG. 1 including pitch attitude or rotation about the Y, transverse or sway axis, roll attitude or rotation about the X, longitudinal or surge axis, and yaw attitude or rotation about the Z, vertical or heave axis.

Someone skilled in the art understands that active marine vessel damping is the attenuation of the value of a resonant response, such as the pitch, roll and yaw of the vessel. Someone skilled in the art understands that a marine vessel active stabilization, motion damping and attitude control system is a system selected, sized and integrated, based on a vessel's specific design, to achieve the effector rates required for damping pitch and/or roll and/or yaw.

Someone skilled in the art understands, for motion damping to be achieved, effector angular motion rates may generally be at least 10 times the vessel angular motion rate in the pitch and roll axis. For example, angular motion rates of 4 degrees per second may be typical of conventional high performance planing craft. This means that effector angular motion rates of 40 degrees per second may be used to achieve motion damping for this specific performance class of planing craft.

Someone skilled in the art understands, a hydrofoil, planing device and/or interceptor produces control forces based on a speed-squared relationship and are therefore much more effective at higher speeds than lower speeds. For example, a trim tab produces 4 times the amount of force at 20 knots than it does at 10 knots.

Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown a first embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly 10. The adjustable propeller assembly 10 includes a propeller housing 12, a drive shaft 14, and a first pivot member 16 attached to the propeller housing 12. As can be seen in the figure, the propeller housing 12 may include a generally hydrodynamic structure associated with the foot of an outboard motor, although other propulsion devices such as inboard/outboard and other propulsions devices may also be utilized. The adjustable propeller assembly may include various exhaust routing designs including through the hub exhaust, over the hub exhaust, a combination of through and over the hub exhaust, and non-through the hub designs where the exhaust is routed to a different location than the propeller 22. The propeller housing 12 may have a generally circular opening 18 allowing passage of the drive shaft 14 and to receive the first pivot member 16, as will be discussed in more detail below.

The adjustable propeller assembly 10 may also include a propeller shaft 20 linked with a propeller 22. A coupling member 24 may be connected to the drive shaft 14 and the propeller shaft 20 allowing for the coupling member 24 to pivotally transmit a torque from the drive shaft 14 to the propeller shaft. 20 An actuator 26 may be connected to a second pivot member 28. The actuator 26 moves the second pivot member 28 and propeller 22 about the first pivot member 16 to dynamically adjust a thrust vector of the propeller 22 relative to the propeller housing 12. The actuator 26 may include various mechanism including linear actuators, rotary actuators, worm drives and other motion transmitting mechanisms.

Again referring to FIG. 1, the first pivot member 16 may include a generally cylindrical body 30 having a pair of tabs 32 including slots 34 formed in the tabs 32. In one aspect, the first pivot member 16 may be inserted within the opening 18 formed in the propeller housing 12 and secured relative to the propeller housing 12. The drive shaft 14 passes through the first pivot member 16 and is connected with the coupling member 24. In one aspect, the drive shaft 14 and coupling member 24 may include splines or may otherwise be connected together. Similarly, the propeller shaft 20 may also include splines that mate with corresponding splines formed on the coupling member 24.

Various coupling members 24 may be utilized to allow for the transmission of torque at various angles when a position of the second pivot member 28 and propeller 22 are changed. In one aspect, the coupling member 24 may be a universal joint as shown in FIG. 1. Other coupling members may include a ball gear, as shown in FIG. 3, or a flexible shaft, as shown in FIG. 4. Additionally, other couplings that allow for the transmission of torque at various angles may also be utilized. For example, bevel gears may be linked with the drive shaft 14 and the propeller shaft 20 to transfer torque at various angles.

Again referring to FIG. 1, the second pivot member 28 may include a generally cylindrical body 36 having a pair of tabs 38 including bosses 40 formed thereon. The bosses 40 may be disposed within the slots 34 of the first pivot member 16 allowing pivotal movement of the second pivot member 28 about a vertical axis relative to the propeller housing 12. The second pivot member 28 may include an inner surface 42 having a ledge 44 formed thereon. The coupling member 24 and propeller shaft 20 pass through the second pivot member 28 for connecting with the propeller 22, as will be described in more detail below.

The adjustable propeller assembly 10 may include a bearing assembly 46 disposed in the second pivot member 28. The bearing assembly 46 may include a bearing retainer 48 and first and second bearings 50, 52 disposed in the bearing retainer 48. The bearing retainer 48 may be positioned to engage the ledge 44 formed on the inner surface 42 of the second pivot member 28.

The propeller shaft 20 may include a stepped design to locate the bearings 50, 52 relative to the propeller shaft 20 as well as position the propeller 22 relative to the propeller shaft 20. The propeller 22 may be attached to the propeller shaft 20 utilizing a nut 54 that attaches to a corresponding thread formed on the propeller shaft, or may otherwise be attached to the propeller shaft 20.

In use, the adjustable propeller assembly 10 of the first embodiment may be adjusted wherein a thrust vector of the propeller 22 is controlled relative to the propeller housing. The drive shaft 14 extending from the opening 18 of the propeller housing 12 is linked to the propeller shaft 20 through the coupling member 24. The propeller 22 is linked with the propeller shaft 20, as described above. The actuator 26 connected to the second pivot member 28 may be energized to change a position of the second pivot member 28 relative to the propeller housing 12. As described above, the second pivot member 28 is pivotally connected to the first pivot member 16 that is attached to the propeller housing 12. As the second pivot member 28 is adjusted, the torque applied from the drive shaft 14 to the propeller shaft 20 is delivered through the coupling member 24 allowing for transmission of the rotary motion at various angles as the second pivot member 28 is adjusted. In turn, the propeller 22 linked with the second pivot member 28 is adjusted such that a thrust vector of the propeller is changed. In one aspect, the propeller 22 is adjustable at rates to dampen motion in the pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel.

The angular load applied by adjustment of the propeller 22 is transmitted from the second pivot member 28 to the first pivot member 16, and is not applied to the propeller shaft 20, coupling member 24 and drive shaft 14. In this manner, angular loads that may damage the drive components are avoided. While the first embodiment was described above and shown in the figures to allow actuation about a horizontal pitch axis, it should be realized that the structure may be rotated 90 degrees to allow for actuation about a vertical or steering axis.

Referring to FIG. 2, there is shown an alternate embodiment of an adjustable propeller assembly 110. As with the previously described embodiment, the adjustable propeller assembly 110 includes a propeller housing 12, drive shaft 14 and first pivot member 116 attached to the propeller housing 12. The propeller shaft 20 is also linked with a propeller 22 and a second pivot member 128 is coupled with the propeller 22. However, in the alternate embodiment a third pivot member 155 is connected to the first and second pivot members 116, 128. The third pivot member 155 is pivotally coupled to the first pivot member 116 for movement about a horizontal axis relative to the propeller housing 12. Additionally, the second pivot member 128 is coupled to the third pivot member 155 for pivotal movement vertically relative to the propeller housing 12. Additionally, actuators 126 are connected to both the second pivot member 128 and third pivot member 155, moving the second pivot member 128 and propeller 22 about the third pivot member 155 and the third pivot member 155 about the first pivot member 116 such that a thrust vector of the propeller 22 is dynamically adjusted relative to the propeller housing 12.

The embodiment shown in FIG. 2 allows manipulation of the propeller 22 in both a horizontal and vertical axis relative to the propeller housing 12. The actuators 126 linked with both the third pivot member 155 and second pivot member 128 may be independently actuated to allow for adjustment of both the vertical and horizontal position of the propeller 22 independently. Various actuators including electric, hydraulic, or other types of actuators may be utilized. As stated above with respect to the first embodiment, the actuators 126 and propeller 22 are adjustable at rates to dampen motion in the pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel. The actuator 126 may include an articulating joint which allows the arm attached to the second pivot member 128 to sweep horizontally while it actuates the second pivot member 128 around the horizontal (pitch) axis. This relationship provides axis feedback isolation. Position feedback isolation may be utilized to prevent horizontal (pitch) axis actuation from influencing vertical (steer) axis actuation and, likewise, to prevent vertical (steer) axis actuation from influencing horizontal (pitch) actuation. This isolation may reduce a control or central computer's workload and increases an overall position accuracy and system performance of the adjustable propeller assembly 10.

Again referring to FIG. 2, the first pivot member 116 may inserted into a cavity 18 formed in the propeller housing 12 and is joined to the propeller housing 12. The third pivot member 155 may include a ring-shaped body 157 having bosses 159 formed on the exterior of the ring-shaped body 157. The second pivot member 128 may include a cylindrical body 130 having a pair of tabs 132 including holes 134 formed thereon. The holes 134 may receive a portion of the bosses 159 formed on the third pivot member 155 with the other bosses 159 formed on the third pivot member 155 disposed in holes 140 formed in the first pivot member 116. In this manner, adjustment about a horizontal and vertical axis relative to the propeller housing 12 of the propeller 22 is achieved.

In use, the second embodiment works in a similar manner to that described with respect to the first embodiment. The torque is delivered from the drive shaft 14 through a coupling member 24 to the propeller shaft 20. The propeller shaft 20 is linked with the propeller 22 that is also connected with the second pivot member 128. The second pivot member 128 may be adjusted by an actuator 126 about the third pivot member 155 such that a position of the second pivot member 128 may change about the vertical axis with respect to the propeller housing 12. Additionally, a second actuator 126 connected with the third pivot member 155 allows for the third pivot member 155 to be adjusted about the first pivot member 116 or about a horizontal axis relative to the propeller housing 12. The torque applied from the drive shaft 14 is delivered at any angle through the coupling 24 to the propeller shaft 20 such that the second pivot member 128 and third pivot member 155 may be independently controlled to adjust the thrust vector of the propeller 22 in both the horizontal and vertical directions relative to the propeller housing 12 while maintaining the torque delivered to the propeller 22.

In one aspect, the adjustable propeller assembly 10 includes a propeller housing 12 and a drive shaft 14. A propeller shaft 20 is linked with a propeller 22. The propeller 22 is linked with a pivotal housing. The pivotal housing may be rotatable about a defined axis. Various axis such as the pitch and steer axis were described above. The pivotal housing may rotate about various components such as a corresponding pivot member as described above or it may rotate about other structure, such as the propeller housing. A coupling member is connected to the drive shaft and propeller shaft. The coupling member pivotally transmits a torque from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft. An actuator is connected to the pivotal housing. The actuator moves the pivotal housing and propeller wherein a thrust vector of the propeller is adjusted relative to the propeller housing. In one aspect, the propeller 22 is adjustable at rates to dampen motion in pitch, roll and yaw axes of a vessel.

The invention has been described in an illustrative manner. It is therefore to be understood that the terminology used is intended to be in the nature of words of description rather than of limitation. Many modifications and variations of the invention are possible in light of the above description. Thus, within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced or applied other than as specifically described.