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Publication numberUS20020091014 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/757,865
Publication dateJul 11, 2002
Filing dateJan 11, 2001
Priority dateJan 11, 2001
Publication number09757865, 757865, US 2002/0091014 A1, US 2002/091014 A1, US 20020091014 A1, US 20020091014A1, US 2002091014 A1, US 2002091014A1, US-A1-20020091014, US-A1-2002091014, US2002/0091014A1, US2002/091014A1, US20020091014 A1, US20020091014A1, US2002091014 A1, US2002091014A1
InventorsDarin Aldrich
Original AssigneeAldrich Darin James
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Laser surface modified materials and their incorporation into golf clubs
US 20020091014 A1
Abstract
Lasers are useful for many types of materials processing, including annealing, texturing, and joining. A method is provided for modifying the surface finish and structure of any material, with said materials being used in the construction of golf clubs. The surface modified materials have properties that lead to increased performance of the golf clubs. A secondary benefit is an improved material structure leading to a better feel for the golfer.
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Claims(8)
What is claimed is:
1. A method for modifying the surface of a material with a laser comprising changes to the chemical, crystalline, or topographic structure of the material.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the material is any type of crystalline or non-crystalline ceramic material, including the classification of materials generally referred to as glasses.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the material is any type of crystalline or non-crystalline metal or metal-containing alloy.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the material is any type of polymeric or rubber material.
5. The product of claims 1-4, wherein the product comprises any surface on a golf club, preferably the striking face
6. The product of claims 1-4, wherein the product comprises a golf putter.
7. The product of claims 1-4, wherein the product comprises a golf iron.
8. The product of claims 1-4, wherein the product comprises a golf driver.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention involves a process for modifying the surface of a material with a laser, and incorporating said material into a golf club. The primary feature of the laser surface modified material involves incorporating it into the striking face of the golf club.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] In recent years, there have been a large number of technological innovations in the field of golf club construction in an effort to improve the performance of the clubs. Many of these innovations have focused optimizing the weight distribution within the golf club's head in order to correct for off-center hits, thereby expanding the “sweet spot”. These innovations have resulted in golf clubs with dramatic performance improvements that have received excellent success in the marketplace. Similarly, the configuration of the golf clubs has also been modified to optimize the “spin” imparted to the golf ball during impact, since this spin can be utilized to better control the ball.

[0003] More recently, golf club manufacturers have shifted their focus to improving the golf club's “feel”. Although the feel is a rather individual and subjective characteristic, most golfers equate it with a comfortable sensation received through the hands during contact with the golf ball. Many golf club manufacturers have improved the feel of golf clubs by incorporating secondary materials into the primary material of the golf club's construction. Some of these multiple material systems have received an excellent reception in the golf club marketplace. There are additional methods, such as the one described in the current invention, that can also be utilized to improve a golf club's performance and feel.

[0004] An alternative process to tailor the properties of a material is through the application of a laser (Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Laser surface modification provides an opportunity to specifically tailor the surface of a material to have unique properties when compared to those of the unmodified bulk material. Some examples of modified surface properties include an increased surface hardness, a decreased surface hardness, and an increased surface roughness. A decrease in surface hardness or an increase in surface hardness from a laser treatment is possible in different materials depending on their chemical structure. In some non-heat treatable iron alloys, for example, the laser radiation can be used to reduce the internal residual stresses, thereby reducing the surface hardness. In heat-treatable alloys, on the other hand, the thermal energy provided by the laser can increase the hardness by changing the crystalline structure of the material. In most instances, there will also be a change in the surface topography of the laser surface modified material. Specifically, the roughness of the surface will increase.

[0005] The difference in these properties is a result of the specific material to be modified by the laser. The increased surface hardness can be particularly beneficial in golf club applications where it is desired to have the ball rebound from the golf ball with as much initial velocity as possible, resulting in a ball that travels a great distance. A decreased surface hardness, on the other hand, can be particularly beneficial in the case of a golf club application where a soft feel is required. Finally, an increased surface roughness on the hitting face of the golf club is particularly desirable in the case of a golf club where it is desired to impart a large degree of spin on the golf ball.

[0006] Laser surface modification has been used extensively in different areas of materials science for joining two or more materials, annealing materials to relieve internal stresses, and sintering powders into a unitary mass. These techniques have been used for a wide variety of industrial applications where it is important to have specific properties of the materials, such as high surface hardness, low surface hardness, or resistance to particular types of wear. In the computer disk drive industry, for example, it has been shown that a laser can be used to modify the surface structure of the hard disk in a manner that benefits the wear properties of the disk drive. Examples of laser application to hard disk drives can be seen in the prior art of Wong, et al. in U.S. Pat. No. 6,117,499 and Baernboim, et al. in U.S. Pat. No. 6,103,990. Although there are many industrial examples of the use of laser radiation for the benefit of specific applications, there is an absence of said laser processing in application to golf equipment.

[0007] The pricr art in golf club construction and engineering is significant. Thorne and Poplaski, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,800,285, describe a method for producing artwork on a golf club with a photochemical engraving technique. The application of a laser in this process is intended to change the structure of a photoresist chemical, thereby allowing a separate compound to chemically etch the exposed areas. This process is fundamentally different than the one described in the present patent application where the laser is modifying the material composing the striking face of the golf club. The primary purpose of Thorne's process is to create a customized pattern such as letters, numbers, symbols, or scorelines, thus it is not primarily focused on functionally modifying the surface. In addition, this patent primarily describes an alternative process for detailing the head of a golf club, when compared to traditional metal casting or metal stamping. Finally, Thorne and Poplaski's patent is focused on metallic materials, which is dissimilar from the laser surface modification process which applies equally well to all classes of materials.

[0008] There are additional methods described in the prior art on golf clubs constructed of multiple materials. For example, Chen in U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,007, describes a golf club with a metal body and a ceramic or titanium hitting face. Similarly, Buck in U.S. Pat. No. 5,779,560, describes a golf club head comprised of a metal head with an insert comprised of a fiber-reinforced composite. Anderson, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,024,437 and 5,261,663, describes an insert made of a softer material such as a forged carbon steel to improve the feel of the club during impact. Further attempts to improve the feel of a golf club were proposed by Krumme in U.S. Pat. No. 5,807,190 wherein individual pieces of a secondary material (“pixels”) were incorporated into the striking face of the club. Similarly, Igarashi, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,407,202, proposed a golf club incorporating a high strength, low weight material such as titanium for the striking face of a golf club. An additional method to improve the performance of golf clubs was proposed by Mahaffey in U.S. Pat. No. 5,827,131 including multiple-layer inserts for the golf club hitting surface. Additional attempts have been made to improve the performance and feel, such as U.S. Pat. No. 5,154,425 which describes a golf club head composed of a material which is a composite of metal and ceramic components.

[0009] Many of these methods, however, require very expensive processing techniques and can lead to a substantial number of internal interfaces between the dissimilar materials. These internal interfaces are sources of potential manufacturing defects, as well as interruptions to the vibrations translated to the golfer. It is the vibrations transmitted to the golfer that provide the pleasant feel. In the current invention, on the other hand, the laser surface modified material is substantially the same as the base material, with a slight functional modification.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] With the present invention, it has been found that a laser can be used to modify the surface structure of a material. The changes can include modification of the crystalline structure of the material, changes to the surface roughness, changes in the surface chemistry of the chemical elements, or can, in some cases, transform a crystalline material into a non-crystalline (i.e., amorphous) material.

[0011] In one aspect, the present invention provides a surface with a greatly increased roughness, thereby dramatically increasing the frictional coefficient of the material. An increase in the level of the friction on the surface of a club hitting face can positively impact the performance of the club by changing the manner in which the golf ball interacts with the club during striking. The increased friction between the golf club and the ball imparts a high degree of spin to the ball during the contact. This high degree of spin can be particularly advantageous in the application of golf clubs with a high degree of loft since it allows a high degree of control over the golf ball after it lands in the desired location.

[0012] In a golf putting application, the present invention can be particularly advantageous due to the high friction between the ball and the putter's surface. This high friction causes the ball to immediately roll in a forward direction, as opposed to the problem of skidding evidenced by many of the prior art putters.

[0013] In many applications for golf clubs, the surface modification will be limited to specific areas on the club hitting face. The present invention can be used for a number of different clubs, including putters, irons, specialty clubs, and drivers. Specialty clubs can include any club used for chipping, hitting out of deep rough, hitting out of wet grass, or hitting out of any hazard, such as, but not limited to sand bunkers.

[0014] Although the preferred location of the laser surface modified material is on the hitting face, it can also be used on any surface of the club, such as the face nearest the ground when the ball is being struck. Again, surface material properties can be altered to increase the performance of the golf club.

[0015] Non-limiting examples of some materials that may be included in laser surface modification processing include steel alloys, stainless steel alloys, titanium alloys, aluminum and its alloys, aluminum oxide, zirconium dioxide, silicon carbide, silicon nitride, polymeric materials, and rubber compounds.

[0016] In a major aspect, the present invention provides a method of manufacture for a laser surface modified material. The manufacturing method typically includes treating the material surface with laser radiation. Nonlimiting examples of laser types include carbon dioxide, yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG), or any type of solid state semiconductor laser. Typical laser power for a carbon dixoide laser ranges from 5-100 Watts. The focused spot size is typically in the range of 125 microns (0.005 inches).

[0017] One tremendous advantage of the present invention is the multiple methods to functionally modify the surface structure of the material. In one instance, for example, a heat treatable steel alloy can increase in hardness from the thermal energy provided by the laser. In another example, the laser beam can increase the surface roughness of a material. In yet another example, lasers can be used to anneal a metallic alloy to remove residual stresses and decrease the hardness of the material. Each one of these properties can benefit different applications for the striking face of a golf club. In one instance, a softer metallic alloy on the striking face of a golf club delivers a better feel to the player. In another instance, an increase in the surface roughness of the striking face of a golf club provides an increase in the amount of advantageous spin that can be applied to a golf ball. Although the previous examples have focused on metallic materials, the technique for laser surface modification applies equally well to natural materials such as wood, as well as synthetic materials comprising the classes generally known as polymers and ceramics.

[0018] The type and power of the laser depends on the type of material to be treated. For a given material, an increase in laser power will increase the depth of penetration into the material. In general, any laser will cause a small change in the surface structure of a material. In the case of the present invention, however, the power must reach a threshold that depends on the type of material, to give the benefits described for the striking face of a golf club.

[0019] An alternative embodiment for the laser surface modification process can be applied to golf clubs that are composed of multiple materials. For example, the laser surface modified material can be used on the hitting surface of the golf clubs, In an alternative embodiment, a secondary material that is inserted into the primary golf club material, can be treated with laser surface modification.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020]FIG. 1 is a schematic showing a putter with a laser surface modified striking face.

[0021]FIG. 2 is a schematic showing an iron with a laser surface modified striking face.

[0022]FIG. 3 is a schematic showing a driver with a laser surface modified striking face.

[0023]FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of putter with a laser surface modified striking face. The depth of penetration of the laser modified material is indicated on the drawing.

[0024]FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a driver with a laser surface modified striking face. The depth of penetration of the laser modified material is indicated on the drawing.

[0025]FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of an iron club with a laser surface modified striking face. The depth of penetration of the laser modified material is indicated on the drawing.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0026] With the present invention, it has been found that a laser can be used to advantageously modify the chemical, crystallographic, or topographical nature of the surface of a material. These modifications can be particularly beneficial in the case of golf club applications.

[0027] Non-limiting examples of some materials that may be included in laser surface modification processing include steel alloys, stainless steel alloys, titanium alloys, aluminum and its alloys, aluminum oxide, zirconium dioxide, silicon carbide, silicon nitride, polymeric materials, and rubber compounds.

[0028] In a major aspect, the present invention provides a method of manufacture for a laser surface modified material. The manufacturing method typically includes treating the material surface with laser radiation. Nonlimiting examples of laser types include carbon dioxide, yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG), or any type of solid state semiconductor laser. Typical laser power for a carbon dixoide laser ranges from 5-100 Watts. The focused spot size is typically in the range of 125 microns (0.005 inches).

[0029] The head of the golf club can be manufactured through one of the methods well-known in the prior art. Some examples include casting, forging, and powder metallurgical methods. A typical casting process, for example, consists of heating a metal alloy above its melting temperature, thereby rendering a liquid metal. The club can be cast into a hollow ceramic mold with the dimensions that are desired in the finished piece. Alternatively, a unitary mass of a ductile metal alloy can be forced into a mold cavity while in a solid state, as in the forging process. After one of these initial forming processes, the club can be finished by sand blasting, plating, or some other surface finishing treatment, dependent on the finish desired for the club. Furthermore, the specific demarcations on the golf club, such as the company logo or the club number, can be highlighted with paint for aesthetic purposes.

[0030] In the current invention, the golf club head produced by any of the above processes will then be subjected to laser surface modification. In a typical laser process, the laser beam will be focused onto the surface of the material to be treated. The laser beam is turned on by means of an electronic controller which initiates the laser power. In a general laser process, the laser beam is emitted from the laser cavity and manipulated by a series of lenses and mirrors to be focused onto the working surface of the material to be modified. In a preferred embodiment, the laser is pulsed on and off from 1 to 200 times per second. Each one of these individual laser pulses modifies the surface of the material in a very localized region, typically 0.1-100 microns. It is particularly advantageous to move either the laser beam or the material to be modified, in an effort to modify the surface of the material in a large pattern. Several commercially available laser systems have a computer-controlled table for mounting the sample. The sample is then moved with the computer software, thereby inscribing a pattern on the surface of the sample. In most instances for the present invention, the spacing between the individual laser pulses is very small, thereby making the pattern indistinct.

[0031] There are several elements of the laser process that can be varied to modify the amount of surface modification. Some examples include ambient atmosphere and temperature, pulse period, pulse width, gas pressure, and cone size. Each of these variables can be tuned for the specific material to be modified. The type and power of the laser depends on the type of material to be treated. For a given material, an increase in laser power will increase the depth of penetration into the material. In general, any laser will cause a small change in the surface structure of a material. In the case of the present invention, however, the power must reach a threshold that depends on the type of material, to give the benefits described for the striking face of a golf club.

[0032] An alternative embodiment for the laser surface modification process can be applied to golf clubs composed of multiple materials. It is well known in the prior art that multiple materials can be beneficially incorporated into a single golf club to improve the performance and feel. A secondary material, generally referred to as an insert, can be modified similar to a golf club composed of a single material. The laser settings must be adjusted to an appropriate level depending on the material in the insert. Too much laser power can cause excessive damage to the material, while too little laser power can cause no beneficial effect.

[0033] After the surface of the material has been modified with the laser, the golf club head can be attached to a shaft. Typical shaft materials can be composed of aluminum alloys, titanium alloys, graphite reinforced polymers, or chrome-coated steel. The final stage of the golf club assembly is to secure a grip to the opposite end of the club from the club head. Typical grips are composed of molded rubber or leather.

[0034] Referring now to FIG. 1, a golf putter is indicated with a laser surface modified region 1, a club head 2, and a golf shaft 3. The laser surface modified region can be any size relative to the putter head, but will typically occupy 30-90% of the region on the hitting face. Referring now to FIG. 2, a golf driver is indicated with a laser surface modified region 4, a club head 5, and a golf shaft 6. The laser surface modified region can be any size relative to the driver head, but will typically occupy 30-90% of the region on the hitting face. Referring now to FIG. 3, a golf iron is indicated with a laser surface modified region 7, a club head 8, and a golf shaft 9. The laser surface modified region can be any size relative to the iron head, but will typically occupy 30-90% of the region on the hitting face. FIGS. 4-6 show cross-sectional views of the three different clubs with laser surface modified striking faces. The depth of the laser surface modification 10 for the putter 111 in FIG. 4 can vary from 0.001-1000 micrometers. The depth of the laser surface modification 12 for the driver 13 in FIG. 5 can vary from 0.001-1000 micrometers. The depth of the laser surface modification 14 for the putter 15 in FIG. 6 can vary from 0.001-1000 micrometers.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7278928Nov 25, 2003Oct 9, 2007Taylor Made Golf Company, Inc.Golf club striking face
US7445561Aug 2, 2007Nov 4, 2008Taylor Made Golf Company, Inc.Golf club striking face
US7762908 *Jan 4, 2007Jul 27, 2010Perkins Russell WAl2O3 material used in a golf club head
US7867110Oct 24, 2008Jan 11, 2011David EdelPutter fitting method
US8684861Aug 23, 2011Apr 1, 2014Sri Sports LimitedGolf club head
US20110201448 *Feb 16, 2011Aug 18, 2011K. K. Endo SeisakushoIron golf club and method for manufacturing the same
Classifications
U.S. Classification473/324, 473/340, 473/330
International ClassificationC21D10/00, C21D1/09, A63B59/00, A63B53/04, B29C59/16, B29C35/08, B23K26/00
Cooperative ClassificationC21D1/09, B29K2995/0041, A63B53/04, B29C59/16, B29C2035/0838, A63B2059/0007, B29K2995/0039, B29K2995/0072, B29L2031/5227, B29K2995/007, A63B53/0487, C21D10/005, A63B2053/0416
European ClassificationB29C59/16, A63B53/04