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Actuator and sensor assembly

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Actuator and sensor assembly


An actuator and sensor assembly comprising respective sensor and actuator housings defining an interior chamber. Clips on the sensor housing engage the actuator housing for coupling the sensor and actuator housings together. The sensor housing includes a wall defining a pocket. A connector with a sensor couples to the sensor housing in a relationship wherein the sensor extends into the sensor housing pocket. A movable piston is located in the interior chamber and a tube thereon defines a receptacle for a magnet located adjacent the pocket. The piston is seated on a flexible diaphragm. An actuator shaft includes one end coupled to the piston and an opposite end coupled to a movable object. A plurality of pins in the actuator housing mount the assembly to a support bracket. The sensor senses changes in the magnetic field in response to changes in the position of the magnet relative to the sensor.
Related Terms: Diaphragm Magnetic Field

Browse recent Cts Corporation patents - Elkhart, IN, US
USPTO Applicaton #: #20140176128 - Class: 32420724 (USPTO) -


Inventors: William D. Storrie, Robert L. Newman, Brian G. Babin, Kevin C. Wolschlager

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20140176128, Actuator and sensor assembly.

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CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED AND CO-PENDING APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation application which claims the benefit of the filing date of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/962,773 filed on Dec. 8, 2010 which is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/315,332 filed on Dec. 2, 2008 now U.S. Pat. No. 8,395,374 issued on Mar. 12, 2013 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/592,170 filed on Nov. 20, 2009 now U.S. Pat. No. 8,400,142 issued on Mar. 19, 2013, the contents of which are also entirely incorporated herein by reference as are all references cited therein.

This application also claims the benefit of the filing date and disclosure of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/284,027 filed on Dec. 9, 2009; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/284,028 filed on Dec. 9, 2009; and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/340,813 filed on Mar. 22, 2010, the contents of which are entirely incorporated herein by reference as are all references cited therein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates, in general, to an actuator and sensor assembly and, more particularly, to a non-contacting linear position sensor coupled to an actuator.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Position sensing is used to electronically monitor the position or movement of a mechanical component. The position sensor is coupled to an actuator and is adapted to produce an electrical signal that varies as the position of the component in question varies. Actuator and sensor assemblies are included in many products. For example, actuator and sensor assemblies allow the status of various automotive components to be monitored and controlled electronically.

A position sensor needs to be accurate, in that it must give an appropriate electrical signal based upon the position measured. If inaccurate, a position sensor may hinder the proper evaluation and control of the position of the component being monitored.

Typically, it is also a requirement that a position sensor be adequately precise in its measurement However, the precision needed in measuring a position will obviously vary depending upon the particular circumstances of use. For some purposes, only a rough indication of position is necessary; for instance, an indication of whether a valve is mostly open or mostly closed. In other applications, more precise indication of position may be needed.

A position sensor should also be sufficiently durable for the environment in which it is placed. For example, a position sensor used on an automotive valve may experience almost constant movement while the automobile is in operation. Such a position sensor should be constructed of mechanical and electrical components adequate to allow the sensor to remain sufficiently accurate and precise during its projected lifetime, despite considerable mechanical vibrations and thermal extremes and gradients.

In the past, position sensors were typically of the “contact” variety. A contacting position sensor requires physical contact to produce the electrical signal. Contacting position sensors typically consist of potentiometers that produce electrical signals which vary as a function of the component\'s position. Contacting position sensors are generally accurate and precise. Unfortunately, the wear due to contact during movement has limited their durability. Also the friction resulting from the contact can degrade the operation of the component Further, water intrusion into a potentiometric sensor can disable the sensor.

One advancement in sensor technology has been the development of non-contacting position sensors. A non-contacting position sensor (“NPS”) does not require physical contact between the signal generator and the sensing element. Instead, an NPS utilizes one or more magnets to generate magnetic fields that vary as a function of position, and devices to detect varying magnetic fields to measure the position of the component to be monitored. Often, a Hall Effect device is used to produce an electrical signal that is dependent upon the magnitude, polarity, or direction of the magnetic flux incident upon the device. The Hall Effect device may be physically attached to the component to be monitored and thus moves relative to the stationary magnet(s) as the component moves. Conversely, the Hall Effect device may be stationary with the magnet(s) affixed directly or indirectly to the component to be monitored. In either case, the position of the component to be monitored can be determined by the electrical signal produced by the Hall Effect device.

Although currently available actuator and NPS assemblies have proven satisfactory, there continues to be a need for improved, lower cost actuator and NPS assemblies.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to, in one embodiment, an actuator and sensor assembly which comprises a sensor housing including a wall defining a pocket and a connector assembly which includes a sensor and is adapted for coupling to the sensor housing in a relationship wherein the sensor extends into the pocket defined by the wall of the sensor housing. The assembly further comprises an actuator housing including a base defining an aperture and the sensor housing and the actuator housing are coupled together and define an interior cavity. A piston is located and movable in the interior cavity and defines a receptacle. A magnet is located in the receptacle of the piston and the magnet generates a magnetic field. The sensor is adapted to sense a change in the magnetic field in response to the movement of the piston and the magnet relative to the sensor. The assembly still further comprises an actuator shaft including a first end coupled to the piston and a second end extending through the aperture in the actuator housing and into coupling relationship with a movable object.

The actuator and sensor assembly further comprises, in one embodiment, a flexible diaphragm located in the interior cavity and the piston is seated on the flexible diaphragm. A spring is also located in the interior cavity against the piston and biases the piston in a first position. A source of pressurization is coupled to one of the sensor housing or the actuator housing and in fluid flow communication with the interior cavity for adjusting the pressure in the interior cavity and causing the movement of the piston.

The actuator and sensor assembly still further comprises, in one embodiment, a plurality of clips on one of the sensor housing or the actuator housing and a flange on the other of the sensor housing or the actuator housing. The plurality of clips engage against the flange for coupling the sensor housing and the actuator housing together.

Further, in one embodiment the magnet comprises at least first and second stacked portions made of different magnetic materials. In one embodiment, the first portion is made of an NdFeB material and the second portion is made of either an iron or steel material.

Still further, in one embodiment, the base of the actuator housing defines a plurality of cavities and the actuator and sensor assembly further comprises a plurality of mounting pins including respective heads extending into the plurality of cavities respectively in the base of the actuator housing. In one embodiment, the base of the actuator housing also defines a central cavity, a gimbal is located in the central cavity and defines a central through aperture, and the actuator shaft extends through the central aperture of the gimbal.

Other advantages and features of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention, the accompanying drawings, and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings that form part of the specification, and in which like numerals are employed to designate like parts throughout the same:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an actuator and sensor assembly in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a broken vertical cross-sectional view of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the actuator and sensor assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a broken perspective view of the sensor housing and the connector assembly of the actuator and sensor assembly of FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 5 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the connector assembly, the sensor housing, and the piston/magnet carrier assembly of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of the of the piston/magnet carder assembly seated in the diaphragm of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 7 is a top perspective view of the actuator housing of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 8 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the actuator housing of he actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 9 is a simplified perspective view of a first alternate embodiment of the magnet assembly of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 10 is a simplified diagram depicting the magnetic field generated by the magnet assembly of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a simplified perspective view of a second alternate embodiment of the magnet assembly of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3; and

FIG. 12 is a simplified perspective view of a third alternate embodiment of the magnet assembly of the actuator and sensor assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF THE EMBODIMENT

An actuator and sensor assembly 200 in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIGS. 1-3.

Actuator and sensor assembly 200 initially comprises an upper or top sensor housing or cover member 22 (FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4) and a lower or bottom actuator cover or housing member 210 (FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8) which are coupled to each other and together define an interior housing or enclosure or chamber for a plurality of elements including a combination piston/magnet carrier assembly 100 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5, 6) and a spring 150 (FIGS. 2 and 3) as described in more detail below.

Sensor housing or cover 22, which may be made from any suitable injection molded plastic, is in the embodiment shown generally dome-shaped and includes a rounded top wall or roof 27 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5) and a unitary downwardly extending circumferential exterior wall or skirt portion 23 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5) having an inner surface 24 and an outer surface 25. The roof 27 and the skirt portion 23 together define an interior sensor cavity or chamber 26.

The roof 27 further includes a dome 29 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5) defining an interior bore or cavity 28 that is co-axial with and opens into the cavity 26. The dome 29 further defines an exterior circumferential recess 30 (FIGS. 2, 3) and a collar 32 (FIGS. 2, 3) which surrounds the recess 30. An elongate, generally cylindrical hollow tube 31 (FIGS. 1, 3, 5) extends generally vertically outwardly and upwardly from a portion of the roof 27 and defines an interior port or passage 33 (FIG. 5) in fluid flow communication with the interior of the cavity 26. The tube 31 can be connected to a source of pneumatic fluid such as air.

A circumferentially extending shoulder or collar 44a (FIGS. 2 and 5) extends downwardly into the cavity 26 from a portion of the interior surface of the roof 27. A circumferential recess or groove 34 is defined in a portion of the interior surface of the roof 27 and surrounds the collar 44a.

An elongated circumferentially extending wall 36 (FIGS. 4, 5) extends unitarily downwardly from another portion of the interior surface of the wall or roof 27 into the cavity 26. The wall 36 includes a first pair of spaced-apart and generally parallel and vertically oriented side wall portions 36a and 36b, a second pair of spaced-apart and generally parallel and vertically oriented wall portions 36c (only one of which is shown in FIG. 4), and a bottom generally horizontal wall or floor 38 which connects the lower distal peripheral ends of the vertical wall portions 36a, 36b, and 36c. The wall 36 and, more specifically, wall portions 36a, 36b, 36c, and 36d thereof together define a sensor/substrate cavity or pocket 40 (FIG. 5) which is accessible through an opening 41 (FIG. 5) defined in the roof 27 of the housing member 22 by the wall 36. The wail 36 and, more specifically, the wall portions 36a, 36b, 36c, and 36d thereof separate and isolate the pocket 40 from the cavity 26, i.e., the pocket 40 is defined and bounded by the respective interior surfaces of the respective walls 36a, 36b, 36c, and 36d, while the respective exterior surfaces of the respective walls 36a, 36b, 36c, and 36d face the cavity 26.

A plurality of generally L-shaped flexible elongate clips or fingers 42 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5) protrude outwardly from the outside surface of the skirt portion 23 of the housing member 22 thereof. Each of the clips 42 includes a distal end 43 (FIGS. 2 and 5) which projects or extends downwardly past the distal circumferential edge of the skirt 23 and terminates in an inwardly projecting distal rib or ledge or shoulder 44.

A connector assembly 50 (FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 5), which may also be made from any suitable injection molded plastic, is mounted over and coupled to the roof 27 of the housing member 22 and, more specifically, over the dome 29 of the roof 27 of the housing member 22. Connector assembly 50 includes a body 51 and a shroud 52 that extends unitarily from the body 51 in a relationship spaced from and generally parallel to the roof 27 of the housing 22. The shroud 52 defines an open interior 53 (FIG. 5). A locking tab 54 is located on and projects outwardly from a top exterior surface of the shroud 52. An electrical connector (not shown) is adapted to be coupled to the end of the shroud 52 and retained to the shroud 52 by the locking tab 54. The electrical connector (not shown) may be connected to a wire harness (not shown).

Connector assembly 50 further comprises an annular distal circumferential flange 56 (FIGS. 2, 3, 5) that extends and projects generally normally and unitarily outwardly from a distal peripheral circumferential edge of the body 51. The connector assembly 50 is coupled to and over the top of the housing member 22 and, more specifically, the walls 27 and 36 of the housing member 22 in a relationship wherein the flange 58 of the connector assembly 50 is seated in the recess 30 of the housing member 22; is surrounded by the collar 32 of the housing member 22; and is secured to the housing member 22 by heat staking, ultrasonically welding, or the like means or method. The body 51 further defines an interior recess 57 (FIG. 5) which allows the connector assembly 50 to be seated over the dome 29 defined by the wall/root 27 of the housing member 22. The body 51 of connector assembly 50 also includes a downwardly projecting unitary arm 58 that extends through the opening 41 in the wall 36 and partially into the pocket 40 defined by the wall 36 of the housing member 22 when the connector assembly 50 is seated on and coupled to the top of the housing member 22.

A plurality of electrically conductive generally L-shaped terminals 84 (only one of which is shown in FIG. 5) are insert-molded into and extend through the body 51 of the connector assembly 50. The terminals 84 are retained by, and pass through, the interior of the body 51 and onto the arm 58. Each of the terminals 84 defines respective opposed distal ends 85 and 86. The terminal end 85 extends into the interior cavity 53 defined by the shroud 52 and is adapted for connection to an electrical connector (not shown). The terminal end 86 extends over the distal end of the arm 58 and is coupled to a substrate 80 (FIG. 5) by press-fitting, soldering, wire-bonding, or the like means or method.

Substrate 80 can be a conventional printed circuit board formed from FR4 or the like material. The substrate 80 extends generally co-planarly outwardly from the distal end of the arm 58 in a relationship generally normal to the shroud 52. A sensor 82 (FIG. 5) is mounted to one of the exterior surfaces of the substrate 80. Sensor 82 can be a magnetic field sensor such as a Hall Effect device. In one embodiment, the sensor 82 is an integrated circuit available from Melexis Corporation of leper, Belgium which is adapted to sense and measure at least changes in the direction of the magnetic field generated by the magnet.

Although not shown, it is understood that other electronic components such as, for example, capacitors, resistors, inductors and other signal conditioning components are mounted on one or both exterior surfaces of the substrate 80. Additionally, it is understood that one or more circuit lines (not shown) are also located and defined on or in the substrate 80 for electrically connecting the sensor 82 and the other electronic components thereon to the end 86 of the respective terminals 84 on the arm 58 of the connector assembly 50.

As shown in FIG. 5, when the connector assembly 50 is coupled to the top of the roof 27 of the housing cover 22, a portion of the arm 58 thereof and the substrate 80 coupled to the distal end of the arm 58 extend into the housing pocket 40 which is defined in the roof 27 of the housing member 22 by the circumferential wall 36 thereof.

The actuator assembly 200 also comprises a lower or bottom actuator cover or housing member 210 which may also be made from a suitable injection molded plastic. The housing member 210 includes a generally circular-shaped bottom wall or floor or base 214 (FIGS. 2, 8) and a circumferential side wall 216 which extends generally unitarily upwardly from a peripheral circumferential edge of the floor 214. The walls 214 and 216 together define a cup-shaped housing member 210 which defines an interior cavity or chamber 212 (FIGS. 2, 3, 7, 8). An upper terminal end portion of the side wall 216 defines a circumferentially extending and outwardly projecting flange or collar or ledge or lip 218 (FIGS. 2, 3, 7, 8). A central through aperture 222 (FIGS. 2, 8) defines an entry into the cavity or chamber 212 and extends through the floor 214 of the housing member 210.

A first interior circumferentially extending wall 223 (FIGS. 2, 3, 7, 8) protrudes generally normally unitarily upwardly from a center portion of the interior surface of the floor 214 of the housing member 210. Wall 223 surrounds and is spaced from the central aperture 222 defined in the floor 214 of the housing member 210.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20140176128 A1
Publish Date
06/26/2014
Document #
14191009
File Date
02/26/2014
USPTO Class
32420724
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
01B7/14
Drawings
6


Diaphragm
Magnetic Field


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