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Precision-folded, high strength, fatigue-resistant structures and sheet therefor

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Precision-folded, high strength, fatigue-resistant structures and sheet therefor

A sheet of material formed for bending along a bend line comprises a plurality of slits positioned proximate and along the bend line. The slits each have opposite end portions which diverge away from the bend line. The slits are configured and positioned to produce bending of the sheet of material along the bend line. The diverging slit end portions reduce stress in the sheet of material during bending.
Related Terms: Diverge

Browse recent Industrial Origami, Inc. patents - Middleburg Heights, OH, US
Inventors: Max W. Durney, Alan D. Pendley
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120276330 - Class: 428136 (USPTO) - 11/01/12 - Class 428 
Stock Material Or Miscellaneous Articles > Structurally Defined Web Or Sheet (e.g., Overall Dimension, Etc.) >Including Aperture >Noncircular Aperture (e.g., Slit, Diamond, Rectangular, Etc.) >Slit Or Elongated

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120276330, Precision-folded, high strength, fatigue-resistant structures and sheet therefor.

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This application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/384,216 filed Mar. 16, 2006, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/663,392 filed Mar. 17, 2005, and the \'216 application is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/672,766 filed Sep. 26, 2003 and now U.S. Pat. No. 7,152,449 B2, which is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/256,870 filed Sep. 26, 2002 and now U.S. Pat. No. 6,877,349 B2, which is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/640,267 filed Aug. 17, 2000 and now U.S. Pat. No. 6,481,259 B1. All the above applications are incorporated herein for all purposes by reference in their entirety.


1. Technical Field

The present invention relates, in general, to the designing and precision folding of sheets of material and the manufacture of structures therefrom. More particularly, the present invention relates to processes of designing, preparing and manufacturing, including, but not limited to, ways of preparing sheet material, in order to enable precision folding and to the use of such processes for rapid two-dimension- to- three-dimensional folding of high strength, fatigue-resistant structures or assemblies.

2. Description of Related Art

A commonly encountered problem in connection with bending sheet material is that the locations of the bends are difficult to control because of bending tolerance variations and the accumulation of tolerance errors. For example, in the formation of the housings for electronic equipment, sheet metal is bent along a first bend line within certain tolerances. The second bend, however, often is positioned based upon the first bend, and accordingly, the tolerance errors can accumulate. Since there can be three or more bends which are involved to create the chassis or enclosure for the electronic components, the effect of cumulative tolerance errors in bending can be significant. Moreover, the tolerances that are achievable will vary widely depending on the bending equipment, and its tooling, as well as the skill of the operator.

One approach to this problem has been to try to control the location of bends in sheet material through the use of slitting or grooving. Slits and grooves can be formed in sheet stock very precisely, for example, by the use of computer numerically controlled (CNC) devices which control a slit or groove farming apparatus, such as a laser, water jet, punch press, knife or other tool.

Referring to FIG. 1, a sheet of material 21 is shown which has a plurality of slits or grooves 23 aligned in end-to-end, spaced apart relation along a proposed bend line 25. Between pairs of longitudinally adjacent slits or grooves are bending webs, splines or straps 27 which will be plastically deformed upon bending of sheet 21. Webs 27 hold the sheet together as a single member. When grooves that do not penetrate through sheet 21 are employed, the sheet of material is also held together by the web of material behind each groove.

The location of grooves or slits 23 in sheet 21 can be precisely controlled so as to position the grooves or slits on bend line 25 within relatively close tolerances. Accordingly, when sheet 21 is bent after the grooving or slitting process, the bend occurs at a position that is very close to bend line 25. Since slits can be laid out on a flat sheet of material precisely, the cumulative error is much less in such a bending process, as compared to one in which bends are formed by a press brake, with each subsequent bend being positioned by reference to the preceding bend.

Nevertheless, even a grooving-based or slitting-based bending of sheet material has its problems. First, the stresses in bending webs or straps 27, as a result of plastic deformation of the webs and slitting at both ends of webs 27, are substantial and concentrated. For grooving, the stresses on the material behind or on the back side of the groove also are substantial and very concentrated. Thus, failures at webs 27 and/or behind grooves 23 can occur. Moreover, the grooves or slits do not necessarily produce bending of webs 27 directly along bend line 25, and the grooving process is slow and inconsistent, particularly when milling or point cutting V-shaped grooves. Grooving, therefore, is not in widespread commercial use.

As can be seen in FIGS. 1A and 1B, if sheet 21 is slit, as is shown at 23a and/or grooved, as shown at 23b, and then bent, bending webs 27a and 27b will experience plastic deformation and residual stress. For slit 23a, of course, material will be completely removed or severed along the length of the slit. For V-shaped groove 23b, there will be a thin web 29 between groove 23b and the convex outside of the bend, but it also will be plastically deformed and highly stressed. The bend for V-shaped grooving will normally be in a direction closing groove 23b so that the side faces come together, as shown in FIG. 1B. Loading of the bent structure of FIGS. 1A and 1B with a vertical force FV and/or a horizontal force FH will place the bend, with the weakening slits and/or grooves and the plastically deformed straps or webs 27a, 27b, as well as thin web 29, under considerable stress. Failure of the structure will occur at lower force levels than if a non-slitting or non-grooving bending process was used.

Another scheme for sheet slitting to facilitate bending has been employed in the prior art. The slitting technique employed to produce bends, however, was designed primarily to produce visual or decorative effects for a sculptural application. The visual result has been described as “stitching,” and the bends themselves have been structurally reinforced by beams. This stitched sculpture was exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art by at least 1998, and the sheet slitting technique is described in Published U.S. Patent Application U.S. 2002/0184936 A1, published on Dec. 12, 2002, (the “Gitlin, et al Application.”). The sculpture is also shown and described in the publication entitled “Office dA” by Contemporary World Architects, pp. 15, 20-35, 2000. FIGS. 2, 2A and 2B of the present drawing show one example of the stitching technique employed.

One embodiment of the Office dA or Gitlin, et al. Application is shown in FIG. 2. A plurality of slits 31 is formed in a sheet material 32. Slits 31 are linear and offset laterally of each other along opposite sides of a bend line 33. The slits can be seen to longitudinally overlap so as to define what will become bending splines, webs, straps or “stitches” 34 between the overlapped slit ends. FIGS. 2A and 2B show an enlarged side elevation view of one end of one slit in sheet 32, which has been bent along bend line 33 by 90 degrees, and sheet portions 35 and 36 on opposite sides of the bend line are interconnected by the twisted straps or “stitches” 34, which twist or stitch between the 90 degree sheet portions 35, 36. The architects of the New York Museum of Modern Art sculpture recognized that the resulting bend is not structurally very strong, and they have incorporated partially hidden beams welded into the sculpture in the inner vertices of each of the stitched bends.

Since slits 31 are parallel to bend line 33, straps 34, which also have a constant or uniform width dimension, are twisted or plastically deformed in torsion over their length, with the result that at the end of a 90° bend a back side of the strap engages face 38 on the other side of slit 31 at position 37. Such engagement lifts sheet portion 35 up away from face 38 on sheet portion 36, as well as trying to open end 40 of the slit and producing further stress at the slit end. The result of the twisting of straps 34 and the lifting at the end of the bend is a gap, G, over the length of slit 31 between sheet portion 35 and face 38. Twisted straps or stitches 34 force sheet portion 35 off of face 38 and stress both slit ends 40 (only one slit end 40 is shown but the same stress would occur at the other slit end 40 of the slip 31 shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B).

Gaps G are produced at each slit 31 along the length of bend line 33 on alternative sides of the bend line. Thus, at each slit a sheet portion is forced away from contact with a slit-defining face instead of being pulled into contact with, and thus full support by, the face.

Moreover, and very importantly, the slitting configuration of FIG. 2 stresses each of straps 34 to a very high degree. As the strap length is increased (the length of overlap between the ends of slits 31) to attempt to reduce the stress from twisting along the strap length, the force trying to resiliently pull or clamp a sheet portion against an opposing face reduces. Conversely, as strap length 34 is decreased, twisting forms micro tears in the constant width straps with resultant stress risers, and the general condition of the twisted straps is that they are overstressed. This tends to compromise the strength of the bend and leaves a non-load bearing bend.

A vertical force (Fv in FIG. 2B) applied to sheet portion 35 will immediately load twisted and stressed strap 34, and because there is a gap G the strap will plastically deform further under loading and can fail or tear before the sheet portion 35 is displaced down to engagement with and support on face 38. A horizontal force FH similarly will tend to crush the longitudinally adjacent strap 34 (and shear strap 34 in FIG. 2B) before gap G is closed and the sheet portion 35 is supported on the opposing slit face 38.

Another problem inherent in the slitting scheme of FIGS. 2-2B and the Gitlin, et al. Application is that the constant strap width cannot be varied independently of the distance between slits, and the strap width cannot be less than the material thickness without stressing the straps to the extreme. When slits 31 are parallel to each other and longitudinally overlapping, the strap width, by definition, must equal the spacing or jog between slits. This limits the flexibility in designing the bends for structural loading of the straps. Still further, the slits terminate with every other slit end being aligned and directed toward the other. There is no attempt, therefore, to reduce stress risers and micro-crack propagation from occurring at the ends of the slits, and aligned slit ends can crack under loading.

The sheet slitting configuration of FIGS. 2-28, therefore, can be readily employed for decorative bends, but it is not optimally suited for bends which must provide significant structural support and fatigue resistance.

The Gitlin et al. Application also teaches the formation of curved slits (in FIGS. 10a, 10b), but the slits again parallel a curved bend line so that the width of the bending straps is constant, the straps extend along and parallel to the bend line, not across it, the straps are twisted in the extreme, the slit ends tend to direct micro-cracks and stress concentrations to the next slit, and the application teaches employing a slit kerf which results in engagement of the opposite side of the slit, at 37, only at the end of the bend.

A simple linear perforation technique also was used by the same architects in an installation of bent metal ceiling panels in a pizza restaurant in Boston. Again, the bent sheet components by linear perforation were not designed to bear significant unsupported loads along the bends.

Slits, grooves, perforations, dimples and score lines also have been used in various patented systems as a basis for bending sheet material. U.S. Pat. No. 5,225,799 to West et al., for example, uses a grooving-based technique to fold up a sheet of material to form a microwave wave guide or filter. In U.S. Pat. No. 4,628,161 to St. Louis, score lines and dimples are used to fold metal sheets. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,210,037 to Brandon, slots and perforations are used to bend plastics. The bending of corrugated cardboard using slits or die cuts is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,132,349 and PCT Publication WO 97/24221 to Yokoyama, and U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,756,499 to Grebel et al. and 3,258,380 to Fischer, et al. Bending of paperboard sheets also has been facilitated by slitting, as is shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,692,672 to Hunt, 3,963,170 to Wood and 975,121 to Carter. Published U.S. Patent Application No. US 2001/0010167 A1 also discloses a metal bending technique involving openings, notches and the like and the use of great force to produce controlled plastic flow and reduced cracking and wrinkling.

In most of these prior art bending systems, however, the bend forming technique greatly weakens the resulting structure, or precision bends are not capable of being formed, or bending occurs by crushing the material on one side of the bend. Moreover, when slitting is used in these prior art systems, in addition to structural weakening and the promotion of future points of structural failure, the slitting can make the process of sealing a bent structure expensive and difficult. These prior art methods, therefore, are less suitable for fabricating structures that are capable of containing a fluid or flowable material.

The problems of precision bending and retention of strength are much more substantial when bending metal sheets, and particularly sheets of substantial thickness. In many applications it is highly desirable to be able to bend metal sheets with low force, for example, by hand with only hand tools, or with only moderately powered tools. Such bending of thick metal sheets, of course, poses greater problems.

In another aspect of the present invention the ability to overcome prior art deficiencies in slitting-based bending of sheet material is applied to eliminate deficiencies in prior art metal fabrication techniques and the structures resulting therefrom.

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