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Publication numberUS20010053656 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/229,718
Publication dateDec 20, 2001
Filing dateJan 13, 1999
Priority dateJan 13, 1999
Also published asEP1020965A1, US6386959
Publication number09229718, 229718, US 2001/0053656 A1, US 2001/053656 A1, US 20010053656 A1, US 20010053656A1, US 2001053656 A1, US 2001053656A1, US-A1-20010053656, US-A1-2001053656, US2001/0053656A1, US2001/053656A1, US20010053656 A1, US20010053656A1, US2001053656 A1, US2001053656A1
InventorsPhilip G. Uruburu
Original AssigneePhilip G. Uruburu
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Feeding system for electro-chemically polishing contact tips
US 20010053656 A1
Abstract
Electro-chemical polishing of fine wire contacts is facilitated by welding the wire contacts to a mounting element on a continuous, flexible, metal strip. The assembled contact strip is wound on a spool and transported to the electro-chemical polishing site where the contact strip is drawn into the polishing site at a constant rate under the control of a microprocessor. The progress of the assembled contact strip is monitored by metering rollers and pulse generators that inform the microprocessor of the drive speed of the assembled contact strip. The controller then provides signals to control the take-up and supply spools to ensure that a proper tip polishing operation is carried out.
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Claims(35)
What is claimed is
1. A system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation, the system comprising:
a plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached to a flexible metal strip in a plurality of groups arranged at even intervals along a length thereof;
a spool having wound thereon said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto; and
means for uniformly moving said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto from said spool into and through an electro-chemical polishing operation site.
2. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 1
, wherein said spool forms a supply spool and further comprising a take-up spool for taking up said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin wire contacts attached thereto following the electro-chemical polishing operation.
3. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 2
, wherein said means for uniformly moving comprises:
a controller;
a drive motor for driving said take-up spool under control of said controller; and
a metering roller for detecting a drive rate of said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto for providing a pulsed signal to said controller indicating said drive rate.
4. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 3
, further comprising
means for applying a tension to said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto while moving into and through said electro-chemical polishing operation site.
5. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 1
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each of said groups are attached to said flexible metal strip in side-by-side arrangement and in physical contact with each other.
6. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 1
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each of said groups are attached to said flexible metal strip in mutually spaced-apart relationship.
7. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 1
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are bent at a predetermined angle.
8. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 1
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are straight.
9. A method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation, the method comprising the steps of:
arranging a plurality of thin wire contacts into a plurality of groups;
separably attaching each of said plurality of groups to a flexible metal strip at even intervals along a length thereof;
winding said flexible metal strip having said plurality of groups of thin wire contacts attached thereto onto a spool; and
uniformly moving said flexible metal strip having said plurality of groups of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto from said spool into and through an electro-chemical polishing operation site.
10. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 9
, wherein said spool forms a supply spool and further comprising the step of taking up said flexible metal strip having said plurality of groups of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto onto a take-up spool following the electro-chemical polishing operation.
11. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 10
, wherein said step of uniformly moving comprises the steps of:
providing a controller;
driving said take-up spool under control of said controller; and
detecting a drive rate of said flexible metal strip having said plurality of groups of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto and providing a pulsed signal to said controller indicating said drive rate.
12. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 11
, further comprising the step of
applying a tension to said flexible metal strip having said plurality of groups of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto while moving into and through said electro-chemical polishing operation site.
13. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 9
, wherein said step of arranging includes placing said plurality of thin wire contacts in side-by-side arrangement and in physical contact with each other.
14. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 9
, wherein said step of arranging includes placing said plurality of thin wire contacts in a mutually spaced-apart relationship.
15. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 9
, including the step of providing free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts to be bent at a predetermined angle.
16. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electo-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 9
, including the step of providing free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts to be straight.
17. A system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing site for tip polishing, the system comprising:
a plurality of thin spring wires separably attached in groups to a flexible metal strip having said groups arranged at even intervals along a length of said metal strip;
a supply spool having wound thereon said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin spring wires attached thereto;
means for uniformly moving said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin spring wires attached thereto from said spool into and through an electro-chemical tip polishing operation site; and
a take-up spool for taking up said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin spring wires attached thereto following the electro-chemical tip polishing operation.
18. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing site for tip polishing according to
claim 17
, wherein said means for uniformly moving comprises:
a system controller;
an input device connected to said controller for providing commands to said system controller upon operation by a user of the system;
a drive motor for driving said take-up spool under control of said system controller; and
a metering roller for detecting a drive rate of said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin spring wires attached thereto for providing a pulsed signal to said system controller indicating said drive rate.
19. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing site for tip polishing according to
claim 18
, further comprising
means for applying a tension to said flexible metal strip having said plurality of thin spring wires attached thereto while moving into and through said electro-chemical tip polishing operation site.
20. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing site for tip polishing according to
claim 17
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each group are attached to said flexible metal strip in side-by-side arrangement and in physical contact with each other.
21. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical site for tip polishing according to
claim 17
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each group are attached to said flexible metal strip in a mutually spaced-apart relationship.
23. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical site for tip polishing according to
claim 17
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are bent at a predetermined angle.
24. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing site for tip polishing according to
claim 17
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are straight.
25. A system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation, the system comprising:
a plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached in a plurality of groups to a straight strip formed of flexible metal at even intervals along a length of said straight strip;
input means for moving said straight strip formed of flexible metal having said plurality of wire contacts separably attached thereto into an electro-chemical polishing operation site; and
output means for moving said straight strip formed of flexible metal having said plurality of wire contacts attached thereto out of the electro-chemical polishing operation site.
26. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 25
, wherein said input means for moving comprises:
a drive roller;
an idler roller in contact with said drive roller; and
a drive motor for rotating said drive roller.
27. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 25
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each of said groups are attached to said straight strip in side-by-side arrangement and in physical contact with each other.
28. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an elecro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 25
, wherein said plurality of thin wire contacts in each of said groups are attached to said straight strip in mutually spaced-apart relationship.
29. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electo-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 25
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are bent at a predetermined angle.
30. The system for providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 25
, wherein free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts are straight.
31. A method of providing thin wire contacts an electro-chemical polishing operation, the method comprising the steps of:
arranging a plurality of thin wire contacts into a plurality of groups;
separably attaching each of said plurality of groups to a straight strip formed of flexible metal at even intervals along a length of said straight strip;
feeding said straight strip formed of flexible metal having said groups of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto into an electro-chemical polishing operation site; and
following a tip-polishing operation, withdrawing said straight strip formed of flexible metal having said plurality of thin wire contacts separably attached thereto out of the electro-chemical polishing operation site.
32. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 31
, wherein said step of feeding comprises the steps of:
arranging said straight strip of flexible metal between a drive roller and an ider roller;
driving said said drive roller and providing linear motion to said straight strip.
33. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 31
, wherein said step of arranging includes placing said plurality of thin wire contacts in side-by-side arrangement and in physical contact with each other.
34. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 31
, wherein said step of arranging includes placing said plurality of thin wire contacts in a mutually spaced-apart relationship.
35. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electro-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 31
, including the step of providing free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts to be bent at a predetermined angle.
36. The method of providing thin wire contacts to an electo-chemical polishing operation according to
claim 31
, including the step of providing free ends of said plurality of thin wire contacts to be straight.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    This invention relates to a system for making electrical contacts available for an electro-chemical polishing operation and, more particularly, to providing contacts arranged on a metal strip for provision to the electro-chemical polishing operation.
  • [0003]
    2. Description of Background
  • [0004]
    The use of very fine wires as electrical contacts in positional encoders, in slip-ring assemblies, precision potentiometers, sensors, or the like is known. It is further known that the contact end of each of such fine wires must be polished in order to eliminate any burrs or the like that would decrease the contact area between the contact and its contact surface. Such polishing is also required to cut down on the extent that the wire contact abrades the mating electrical contact surface.
  • [0005]
    One known approach to smoothing or rounding off of the ends of very small diameter wires or springs is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,189,278 in which a laser beam is used to irradiate the ends of the wire or spring so that the end is melted somewhat. While some advantageous results are had by this approach, the melting of the end of the wire or spring results in a loss of temper of the metal. Moreover, in order to properly irradiate the end of the wire with the laser beam, the wire must be separated by more than a nominal distance from its adjacent wire or spring, so that embodiments in which multiple springs are arranged side-by-side in contact with each other are not available for use with the laser technique described in the above-mentioned U.S. patent.
  • [0006]
    Another approach to smoothing metal objects is known as electro-chemical smoothing, whereby a surface of a conductive metal part can have the burrs removed. One technique for performing such a function is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,752,376. Nevertheless, application of the electro-chemical smoothing process to extremely fine wire contacts poses difficulties in the implementation because the fine wire assemblies are difficult to handle.
  • OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a system whereby the end surfaces of very fine gauge wires forming metal spring contacts can be polished and that can eliminate the above-noted defects inherent in the prior art.
  • [0008]
    Another object of the present invention is to provide a system for continuous polishing or smoothing of the tips of fine gauge wire electrical contacts mounted on a thin, flexible metal strip for ease of transport and polishing in an electro-chemical polishing operation.
  • [0009]
    In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, small diameter wire contacts are fixed onto a flexible metal strip that is wound on a spool and transported to an appropriate location whereat an electro-chemical polishing operation is performed on the tips of the wire contacts in a continuous fashion. The contacts and wire strip are then wound up again on a spool for transport to the ultimate manufacturing location. A metering operation takes place to control the supply and take-up spools under control of a microprocessor that permits various inputs by the user of the system.
  • [0010]
    In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, small diameter wire contacts are fixed onto a flexible metal strip and transported to an appropriate location whereat short lengths of the flexible metal strip are fed to where an electro-chemical polishing operation is performed. The strips with the polished wire contacts are then collected for subsequent use.
  • [0011]
    The above and other objects, features, advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments thereof to be read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0012]
    [0012]FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a portion of a flexible metal strip having small diameter contact wires attached thereto;
  • [0013]
    [0013]FIG. 2 is a view of the tip portion of one of the contact wires shown in FIG. 1 that is bent at a predetermined angle;
  • [0014]
    [0014]FIG. 3 is an enlarged cross-sectional view through the contact wire of FIG. 2 prior to polishing;
  • [0015]
    [0015]FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the contact wire of FIG. 3 after having undergone an electro-chemical polishing operation;
  • [0016]
    [0016]FIG. 5 is an enlarged cross-section view of a contact wire that is straight after having undergone an electro-chemical polishing operation;
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 6 is a schematic representation of the electro-chemical polishing operation according to an embodiment of the present invention; and
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 7 is a schematic representation of the electro-chemical polishing operation according to another embodiment of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0019]
    [0019]FIG. 1 shows a portion of a strip of electrical contacts having been previously assembled. More particularly, the assembled contact strip 10 includes a group of fine diameter contact wires shown generally at 12. In this case the wires are of a diameter of approximately 0.003 inches and are formed of palladium/silver alloy. In each of the groups 12, there are twenty-two wires arranged side-by-side so that they are in contact with each other. Each group of wires is welded to a metal holder portion forming a mounting element 14 that is a thin gauge metal spring formed of a tempered copper or nickel based alloy. In addition, various other metal alloys can be used. While in this case it is palladium/silver alloy on a copper base strip the wires could be tungsten or stainless steel or the like on a base strip formed of various other metals.
  • [0020]
    As seen in FIG. 1, in this particular construction there are two groups of spring wires 12 attached to each mounting element 14, which is in the form of a U-shaped element. One group of wires 12 is welded to each arm of the mounting element 14 at a location shown generally at 16 in FIG. 1.
  • [0021]
    The mounting elements 14 are in turn attached to a band of the same spring-like material 18 at attachment elements 20. The band 16 is provided with sprocket holes, shown typically at 22, that are precisely located along the length thereof. The mounting elements 14 and the band 18 need not be separate elements, and the mounting elements and band can be integrally formed as one piece.
  • [0022]
    After the manufacturing and polishing operations have been performed on the spring wires 12 and the assembled contact strip 10 conveyed to the final assembly point, the wires 12 and mounting elements 14 may be separated from the band 18 by separating the mounting elements 14 from the attachment elements 20 at a so-called score line 24 by bending or severing. The detachment of the mounting elements 14 from the band 18 may occur at the site of the end-user of the contacts by means of an automated assembly machine.
  • [0023]
    There are various configurations that the spring contact assemblies can assume, and the showing at 10 in FIG. 1 is only one example of the number of wires per mounting element, as well as the configuration of the mounting element itself.
  • [0024]
    [0024]FIG. 2 shows a single wire 30 that makes up the group of wire contacts 12 shown in FIG. 1. This wire 30 is bent at the head end through an angle A, which can typically be approximately 70. Alternatively, the wire contacts can be supplied straight for subsequent bending after polishing.
  • [0025]
    [0025]FIG. 3 is a close-up view in cross-section of the wire 30 of FIG. 2 showing that at the end portion 40 sharp corners such as at 42 and burrs such as at 44 caused by the manufactured process are originally present. It is these sharp corners 42 and burrs 44 that are desired to be eliminated from the finished product.
  • [0026]
    In that regard, FIG. 4 shows the wire 30 of FIG. 3 having an end portion 40 with a smoothly rounded contour 50 in which the sharp corners 42 and burrs 44 have been eliminated. This is made possible by performing the operations known as electro-chemical polishing, which have been discussed hereinabove.
  • [0027]
    [0027]FIG. 5 shows a close-up view in cross-section of a single wire 52 that is not bent but is straight. A group of these wires would be used to make up the contact group 12 of FIG. 1. This wire 52 has already been polished and the burrs and sharp corners have been removed and is then ready to be bent through any angle required by the particular application.
  • [0028]
    [0028]FIG. 6 is a schematic representation of an embodiment of the present invention in which the assembled contact strip 10 bearing the mounting elements 14 and contact wires 12 attached to the mounting strip 18 is provided to the electro-chemical processing site.
  • [0029]
    The assembled contact strip 10 is wound about a supply spool 60 that has upper and lower flanges 62 and 64, respectively. The supply spool 60 is mounted on a spindle 66 that is provided with suitable mounting elements to permit the supply spool 60 to be rotatably mounted thereon. The assembled contact strip 10 is then passed over a metering roller 68 that has a sprocket or the like, not shown, that engages with the sprocket holes 22 of the assembled contact strip 10. Alternatively, the metering roller could be a soft rubber roller that is rotated by friction with the assembled contact strip 10. The metering roller 68 is attached to a pulse generator 70 that provides output pulses on line 72 fed to the system controller 74, which may comprise a microprocessor. The assembled contact strip 10 is then passed into an electro-chemical polishing site 76 that performs the electro-chemical polishing on the tips of the contact wires, as described above.
  • [0030]
    Following the polishing operation, the assembled contact strip 10 passes over a second metering roller 78 that has associated therewith a second pulse generator 80 that provides second pulses on line 82 fed to the system controller 74. After passing over the second metering roller 78, which would also include a sprocket, not shown, for interacting with the sprocket holes 22, the assembled contact strip 10 with the polished tips is wound up on a take-up spool 84 that also has upper flange 86 and lower flange 88 for tracking the assembled contact strip 10 as it is wound up. The takeup spool 84 is mounted on a spindle 90 that is driven by a take-up motor 92. The take-up motor 92 is controlled by a signal on line 94 from the system controller 74.
  • [0031]
    In order to provide proper tension on the band as it is fed or drawn into the electro-chemical polishing site 76, a torque motor 96 can be provided on the supply spindle 66 to provide appropriate tension on the assembled contact strip 10. Torque motor 94 is controlled by a signal on line 98 from the controller 74. Alternatively, a mechanical tensioning system, such as a brake band, could be provided at the take-up reel 60 to provide the appropriate tension on the assembled contact strip 10.
  • [0032]
    Various changes in speed as well as stopping and starting are controlled by the controller 74 by way of the user of the system operating a keyboard 100 that is electrically connected to the system controller 74.
  • [0033]
    Accordingly, by use of the system shown in FIG. 6, it is possible to provide electro-chemical polishing to small diameter wires 12 mounted on a flexible band 18 that can be drawn through an electro-chemical polishing site 76 for polishing the tips of the fine diameter wires forming the contacts 12 with the result as shown in FIG. 4 or FIG. 5, for example.
  • [0034]
    Although the above description was presented in regard to a continuous contact strip, the present invention also contemplates the use of relatively short lengths of the strip. Such an embodiment is shown FIG. 7, in which the contacts are formed as specific strip lengths. More particularly, an assembled contact strip 110 includes a group of fine diameter wires, shown typically at 112. Each group of wires is welded to a metal holder portion 114.
  • [0035]
    A few of the mounting elements 14, in this case three, are attached to a short length or strip of spring-like material 118 at attachment elements 120. The strip 118 can have sprocket holes 122 formed therein. Although this embodiment shows three mounting elements 114 attached to the strip 118 fewer or more mounting elements could be employed with the strip length changing accordingly.
  • [0036]
    The materials used in the contact strip 110 of FIG. 7 can be the same as those described above in relation to FIG. 1.
  • [0037]
    The assembled contact strip 110 is fed to an electro-chemical polishing site 124 by a drive roller pair that includes a drive roller 126 and an idler roller 128. The drive roller 126 is driven by a motor 130 that is controlled by a system controller, not shown, such as controller 24 in the system of FIG. 6.
  • [0038]
    The contact strip 110 is thus fed into the polishing site 124 where it is handled in a similar fashion as by the input system that is shown and the electro-chemical tip polishing is performed.
  • [0039]
    Following the polishing operation the polished contact strip 110 is fed to the nip of a pair of output rollers that include a drive roller 132 and idler roller 134. The drive motor 132 is driven by a motor 136 under control of the system controller, not shown.
  • [0040]
    The output rollers 132, 134 then transport the contact strip 110 to a collection location, such as a conveyor belt 138 driven by a motor 140 under control of the system controller, not shown.
  • [0041]
    The input rollers and output rollers can transport the contact strips 110 by friction or drive pins, shown typically at 142, can be provided on the drive rollers 126, 132 for interaction with the sprocket holes 122 formed in the metal strip 118. Nevertheless, because the rate of passage of the contact strips 110 through the polishing site is not absolutely set by the input and output rates, the input and output drive rates can be met using friction drive rollers.
  • [0042]
    It will be understood, of course, that various modifications and alterations can be made to the embodiment described above without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, which is to be defined by the appended claims.
Classifications
U.S. Classification451/8
International ClassificationH01R43/12, C25F3/16, H01R39/24, B23H3/00, B65G49/00
Cooperative ClassificationH01R43/12, H01R39/24
European ClassificationH01R43/12
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 13, 2005FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Dec 21, 2009REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
May 14, 2010LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
Jul 6, 2010FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20100514