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Publication numberUS20020128093 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/053,764
Publication dateSep 12, 2002
Filing dateJan 19, 2002
Priority dateJan 23, 2001
Publication number053764, 10053764, US 2002/0128093 A1, US 2002/128093 A1, US 20020128093 A1, US 20020128093A1, US 2002128093 A1, US 2002128093A1, US-A1-20020128093, US-A1-2002128093, US2002/0128093A1, US2002/128093A1, US20020128093 A1, US20020128093A1, US2002128093 A1, US2002128093A1
InventorsJames Whayne
Original AssigneeWhayne James G.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Athletic equipment with improved force respones
US 20020128093 A1
Abstract
Described are athletic devices containing superelastic components capable of producing a spring force in response to a deflection. The superelastic components improve the performance of athletic devices by increasing the contact duration between the active element of the device and objects the devices are configured to exert force. The superelastic components of also provide increased resistance to breakage or plastic deformation of the athletic device, especially when exposed to frequent deflections. Superelastic components are able to decrease the weight of the athletic device without sacrificing strength. The superelastic components also enable applying a specific spring force at a flex point of the device to enhance the dynamic response resulting from a desired deflection.
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Claims(12)
We claim as our invention:
1. An athletic device for hitting an object comprising:
a shaft;
a base attached to the shaft;
a hitting surface associated with the base
at least one superelastic member securing the hitting surface to the base;
wherein said superelastic member is adapted to deflect in response to an external force and exert a counteracting force against said object;
2. The device of claim 1, wherein
said athletic device comprises a racket;
said base comprises the head of a racket
said hitting surface comprises the strings of the racket; and
wherein, said superelastic member is wound through channels in the base and the strings are passed through individual windings of said superelastic member;
3. The device of claim 1, wherein
said athletic device comprises a golf club;
said base comprises the head of the club;
said superelastic member comprises at least one spring having a first side and a second side different from said first side; and
wherein, said superelastic member is secured to the base at said first side and secured to the hitting surface at said second side;
4. The device of claim 1, wherein
said shaft comprises an elongate member having a central lumen; and
wherein at least one superelastic member is contained within said lumen of said shaft; and
said superelastic member is bonded to said shaft;
5. The device of claim 1, wherein at least one first superelastic member having first stiffness parameters and at least one second superelastic member having second stiffness parameters different from said first stiffness parameters are distributed throughout said athletic device;
6. The device of claim 1, wherein said superelastic member comprises a first end having first stiffness parameters and a second end having second stiffness parameters different from said first stiffness parameters;
7. The device of claim 1 wherein said shaft comprises at least one superelastic member;
8. An athletic device for exerting a force against an object comprising:
an elongate shaft;
a hitting surface attached to said shaft
at least one superelastic member associated with at least one of said shaft and said hitting surface;
wherein, said superelastic member is adapted to deflect from a first configuration to a second configuration different from said first configuration in response to an external force, and said superelastic member returns towards said first configuration thereby exerting a force against said object;
8. The device of claim 7 wherein said superelastic member comprises a first region having first stiffness parameters and a second region having second stiffness parameters different from said first stiffness parameters;
9. The device of claim 7, wherein said shaft comprises at least one superelastic member; and
said superelastic member is adapted to dampen vibrations that result from hitting the object;
10. The device of claim 7, wherein said hitting surface comprises at least one superelastic member; and
said superelastic member is adapted to dampen vibrations that result from hitting the object;
11. The device of claim 7, wherein said superelastic member is adapted to increase the force exerted against the object;
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority to provisional U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 60/263,418, entitled “Athletic and Other Devices with Superelastic Components”, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTIONS

[0002] This invention relates to athletic devices and components incorporated in athletic devices for enhancing the performance of the athletic activity and other devices that undergo flexion during use. The invention relates to athletic devices that incorporate features to better enable them to withstand flexing and provide a dynamic response to such flexion. In addition, the invention relates to components that are incorporated in various devices that permit frequent flexing of the component without permanently deforming and provide the desired radial stiffness, torsional rigidity, axial stiffness, and recoil or spring force. As such, the device is reinforced by tailoring the stress, strain, and torque characteristics to the application. The superelastic components also preserve the flexibility of the device and/or intensify the spring force exerted upon deflection. In particular, the superelastic components provide a directional force in response to an opposing deflection.

[0003] The superelastic components are intended to reinforce, strengthen, and/or enhance the performance of various athletic devices and other devices. The superelastic components improve the performance of athletic devices and other devices by increasing the contact duration between the active element of the device and objects the devices are configured to exert force. For example, rackets, swim fins, baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, skis, snowboards, surfboards, razors, and toothbrushes incorporate superelastic components to produce greater control of force exerted upon objects without a reduction in power. In addition, rolling or sliding devices such as bicycles, automobiles, rollerblades, skateboards, skates, or other devices incorporate superelastic components to increase the duration of contact between the wheels or blades and the ground or other surface.

[0004] The superelastic components also provide increased resistance to breakage or plastic deformation of the athletic device or other devices, especially when exposed to frequent deflections. For example, the resistance to failure, resulting from fatigue or excess deflection, for rackets, archery bows, swim fins, skis, ski poles, snowboards, surfboards, vaulting poles, golf clubs, golf balls, hockey sticks, boat oars, canoe paddles, fishing poles, boat masts, automobile suspension parts, bicycle shocks, bicycle frame, bicycle spokes, rollerblade shocks, skateboard parts, snowshoes, backpack frame, tent frame, kite frame, or other components which are exposed to frequent and extreme deflections is dramatically improved when using superelastic components.

[0005] Superelastic components are able to decrease the weight of the athletic device or other component without sacrificing strength. For example, rackets, golf clubs, baseball bats, boat masts, automobile aerodynamic parts, bicycle frames, snowboards, skateboards, skis, ski bindings, snowboard bindings, backpack frame, kite frame, or other device may be fabricated lighter by leveraging the ability to decrease wall thickness or other dimensions of the superelastic components without a reduction in tensile strength.

[0006] The superelastic components also enable applying a specific force at a flex point of the device to enhance the recoil resulting from a desired deflection. For example, rackets, swim fins, baseball bats, boat oars, hockey sticks, golf clubs, golf balls, other balls, vaulting poles, javelin poles, boat mast, archery bow, canoe paddles, fishing pole, or other devices are deflected by an object and rely on elastic recoil to transfer potential energy, induced from a deflection of the superelastic component, to the object thereby propelling the object in a predetermined direction. Different components having different force characteristics and/or enabling different degrees of movement may be used in various devices to distribute the spring force throughout the device.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

[0007] Current techniques for providing components for athletic or other devices involve using a relatively elastic, semirigid material that is positioned at the flex points and limits the degree of bending of the device. These current components interfere with optimal recoil of the device about the flex points in response to an opposing deflection. In addition, these current components are limited in their ability to prevent plastic deformation upon frequent or significant rotation, bending or other motion unless they are fabricated extremely thick; however, when fabricated thick they further hinder the desired movement of the device about the flex point. Another conventional component configuration incorporates wood, Kevlar, stainless steel, carbon, carbon fiber, aluminum, fiberglass, other laminates, graphite, or other solid metal or alloy component incorporated in the device to include a pivot that enables movement of the component about the flex point. These current components severely limit the available flexion of the device thus adversely impact the performance. As such they greatly inhibit the desired rotation, bending, or other motion. A need thus exists for superelastic components incorporated in various devices that are capable of being deflected a predetermined amount in response to an external force and exert an opposing force in response to the deflection. As such these superelastic components preserve or enhance the response of the device to any flexion and permit frequent and dramatic twisting, bending, or other motion capable which typically causes deformation or failure of conventional devices that do not utilize superelastic components.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The embodiments of the present invention provide various athletic and other devices that contain superelastic components that elastically return towards their baseline, or annealed configuration when deflected in response to an external force. As such these superelastic components may be utilized in various devices to produce an opposing spring force once deflected and enhance any motion associated with a flexion response.

[0009] The superelastic components improve the performance of athletic devices and other devices by increasing the contact duration between the active element of the device and objects the devices are configured to exert force. The superelastic components also provide increased resistance to breakage or plastic deformation of the athletic device or other devices, especially when exposed to frequent deflections. Superelastic components are able to decrease the weight of the athletic device or other component without sacrificing strength. The superelastic components also enable applying a specific spring force at a flex point of the device to enhance the response resulting from a desired deflection.

[0010] The above described and many further features and advantages of the present invention will be elaborated in the following detailed description and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0011]FIG. 1a shows a perspective view of a racket containing superelastic components;

[0012]FIGS. 1b and c show a cross-sectional view and a side-sectional view of a racket frame incorporating a superelastic component mechanism for attaching the strings to the frame;

[0013]FIG. 1d shows a side view of a section of string incorporating a superelastic component central element;

[0014]FIGS. 2a and b show a top view and a side view of a swim fin that contains superelastic components;

[0015]FIGS. 3a and b show a top view and a side view of a ski that contains superelastic components;

[0016]FIGS. 3c and d show a top view and a side view of a snowboard, skateboard, or surfboard that contain superelastic components;

[0017]FIGS. 3e and f show cross-sectional views of skis, snowboards, skateboards, or surfboards that contain superelastic components;

[0018]FIGS. 4a and b show a side view and a bottom view of a toothbrush that contains superelastic components;

[0019]FIGS. 5a and b show a bottom view and a side view of a razor that contains superelastic components;

[0020]FIG. 6a shows a side view of an archery bow that contains superelastic components;

[0021]FIGS. 6b and c show cross-sectional views of the archery bow frame and archery bow string in FIG. 6a;

[0022]FIG. 7a shows a side-sectional view of a boat oar that contains superelastic components;

[0023]FIG. 7b shows a side-sectional view of a baseball bat that contains superelastic components;

[0024]FIG. 7c shows a side-sectional view of a hockey stick that contains superelastic components;

[0025]FIG. 8a shows a side view of a golf club that contains superelastic components;

[0026]FIG. 8b shows a cross-sectional view of the club head of the golf club in FIG. 8a;

[0027]FIGS. 8c and d show cross-sectional views of the shaft of the golf club in FIG. 8a;

[0028]FIGS. 8e to g show side views of the golf club shaft of FIG. 8a taken along line C-C;

[0029]FIGS. 9a and b show a top view and a side view of an automobile that contains superelastic components;

[0030]FIG. 10 shows a side view of a bicycle that contains superelastic components;

[0031]FIG. 11 shows a side view of a roller blade, a roller skate, or an ice skate that contains superelastic components;

[0032]FIG. 12 shows a perspective view of a backpack that contains superelastic components;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0033] The following is a detailed description of the presently best known modes of carrying out the inventions. This detailed description is not to be taken in a limiting sense, but is made merely for the purpose of illustrating the general principles of the inventions.

[0034] This specification discloses a number of embodiments, mainly in the context of reinforcement and performance enhancement for athletic devices and other devices. Nevertheless, it should be appreciated that the embodiments are applicable for use in other indications involving devices that contain structures that flex, restrict motion to a desired path, and/or exert a desired force in response to an externally induced deflection. The embodiments of the invention are configured for specific devices; however, it should be noted that the embodiments of the invention may be tailored to other devices not specifically discussed by changing the geometry and sizes of the structures.

[0035] The embodiments of the invention provide four primary benefits to athletic devices and other devices. The superelastic components improve the performance of athletic devices and other devices by increasing the contact duration between the active element of the device and objects the devices are configured to exert force. The superelastic components also provide increased resistance to breakage or plastic deformation of the athletic device or other devices, especially when exposed to frequent deflections. Superelastic components are able to decrease the weight of the athletic device or other component without sacrificing strength. The superelastic components also enable applying a specific force at a flex point of the device to enhance the elastic recoil resulting from a desired deflection. It should be noted that other benefits may arise from the use of superelastic components in athletic devices and other components.

[0036] The embodiments of the invention provide athletic devices and components in athletic devices fabricated from superelastic (or pseudoelastic) shape memory alloys. These superelastic components elastically deform upon exposure to an external force and return towards their preformed shape upon reduction or removal of the external force. The superelastic components may exhibit stress-induced martensite characteristics in that they transform from the preshaped austenite form to the more soft and ductile martensite form upon application of stress and transform back toward the stronger and harder austenite form once the stress is released or reduced; this depends on the composition of the superelastic shape memory alloys which affects the temperature transition profile. Superelastic shape memory alloys also enable straining the material numerous times without plastically deforming the material. Superelastic shape memory alloys are light in weight, and exhibit excellent tensile strengths such that they may be used in athletic equipment, personnel items, or other devices without dramatically increasing the weight of the device, or making the device thick or bulky. The utility of superelastic materials in components for athletic or other devices is highlighted by the inherent properties of such materials; they are able to withstand continuous and frequent deflections without plastically deforming or observing fatigue failures.

[0037] These components may also be elastically deflected into small radii of curvatures and return towards their preformed configuration once the external force causing the deflection is removed or reduced. Many other known metals, alloys, and polymers plastically deform or fail when deflected into similar radii of curvature or exposed to comparable strains; as such these other metals, alloys, and polymers do not return towards their original configuration when exposed to the amount of deflection components are expected to endure. Therefore superelastic components may inherently incorporate flex regions, which conventional athletic devices and other devices are unable to accommodate, thereby eliminating the need for two or more components being connected through a hinge structure that requires pivot points between the two or more components. Thus the complexity and cost of athletic devices and other devices that incorporate superelastic components is significantly reduced when compared to conventional devices. In addition, superelastic components permit deflections into smaller radii of curvature than other metals, alloys, and polymers resulting in larger strains, and they are capable of exerting substantial force when deflected, ensuring the superelastic components return towards their preformed shape after being elastically deformed.

[0038] Superelastic components are preferably fabricated from shape memory alloys (e.g. nickel titanium) demonstrating stress-induced martensite at ambient temperature. Of course, other shape memory alloys may be used and the superelastic material may alternatively exhibit austenite properties at ambient temperature. The composition of the shape memory alloy is preferably chosen to tailor the finish and start martensite transformation temperatures (Mf and Ms) and the start and finish austenite transformation temperatures (As and Af) to the desired material response. When fabricating shape memory alloys that exhibit stress induced martensite the material composition is chosen such that the maximum temperature that the material exhibits stress-induced martensite properties (Md) is greater than Af and the range of temperatures between Af and Md covers the range of ambient temperatures the component members are exposed. When fabricating shape memory alloys that exhibit austenite properties and do not transform to martensite in response to stress, the material composition is chosen such that both Af and Md are less than the range of temperatures the components are exposed. Of course, Af and Md may be chosen at any temperature provided the shape memory alloy exhibits superelastic properties throughout the temperature range they are exposed. Nickel titanium having an atomic ratio of 51.2% Ni and 48.8% Ti exhibits an Af of approximately −20° C.; nickel titanium having an atomic ratio of 50% Ni to 50% Ti exhibits an Af of approximately 100° C. [Melzer A, Pelton A. Superelastic Shape-Memory Technology of Nitinol in Medicine. Min Invas Ther & Allied Technol. 2000: 9(2)59-60].

[0039] Such superelastic materials are able to withstand strain as high as 10% without plastically deforming. As such, these superelastic materials are capable of elastically exerting a force upon deflection. Materials other than superelastic shape memory alloys may be used as components provided they can be elastically deformed within the temperature, stress, and strain parameters required to maximize the elastic restoring force thereby enabling components of the athletic devices and other devices to exert a directional force in response to an induced deflection. Such materials include other shape memory alloys, spring stainless steel 17-7PH, cobalt chromium alloy (Elgiloy), nickel titanium cobalt, platinum tungsten alloys, superelastic and crosslinked polymers including those that have been irradiated, etc.

[0040] The embodiments of the invention provide athletic devices and other devices. In particular, the athletic devices and other devices of the invention contain superelastic components that are capable of exerting a directional force in response to an opposing deflection. As such, these superelastic components enhance the operation of the athletic and other devices by utilizing the elastic recoil of the components to enhance the performance of the athletic and other device. The embodiments of the invention also provide superelastic components capable of exerting a desired force profile throughout the athletic or other device. The stiffness of the superelastic components may be selected and distributed to produce a predefined stiffness profile throughout the athletic or other device and/or exert varying amounts of force throughout the device.

[0041] The superelastic components may be fabricated from at least one rod, wire, band, tube, sheet, ribbon, other raw material having the desired pattern, cross-sectional profile, and dimensions, or a combination of cross-sections. The superelastic components are cut into the desired pattern and are thermally formed into the desired 3-dimensional geometry. The rod, wire, band, sheet, tube, ribbon, or other raw material may be fabricated by extruding, press-forging, rotary forging, bar rolling, sheet rolling, cold drawing, cold rolling, using multiple cold-working and annealing steps, or otherwise forming into the desired shape. Then the components must be cut into the desired length and/or pattern. Conventional abrasive sawing, waterjet cutting, laser cutting, EDM machining, photochemical etching, or other etching techniques may be employed to cut the components from the raw material.

[0042] Ends or any sections of the rod, wire, band, sheet, tubing, ribbon, or other raw material may be attached by laser welding, adhesively bonding, soldering, spot welding, or other attachment means. This encloses the superelastic components to provide additional reinforcement, eliminate edges, or other purpose. Multiple rods, wires, bands, sheets, tubing, ribbons, other raw materials, or a combination of these may be bonded to produce a composite superelastic component and form the skeleton of the athletic device or other devices. When thermally forming the superelastic components, the superelastic material(s), previously cut into the desired pattern and/or length, are stressed into the desired resting configuration over a mandrel or other forming fixture having the desired resting shape of the athletic or other device component, and the material is heated to between 300 and 650 degrees Celsius for a period of time, typically between 1 and 30 minutes. Once the volume of superelastic material reaches the desired temperature, the superelastic material is quenched by inserting into chilled water or other fluid, or otherwise allowed to return to ambient temperature. As such, the superelastic components are fabricated into their resting configuration. When extremely small radii of curvature are desired, multiple thermal forming steps may be utilized to sequentially bend the rod, wire, band, sheet, tubing, ribbon or other raw material into tighter radii of curvature.

[0043] When fabricating the superelastic components from a tubing, the raw material may have an oval, circular, rectangular, square, trapezoidal, or other cross-sectional geometry capable of being cut into the desired pattern. After cutting the desired pattern of superelastic components, the components are formed into the desired shape, heated, for example, between 300° C. and 650° C., and allowed to cool in the preformed geometry to set the shape of the components.

[0044] When fabricating the superelastic components from flat sheets of raw material, the raw material may be configured with at least one width, W, and at least one wall thickness, T, throughout the raw material. As such, the raw sheet material may have a consistent wall thickness, a tapered thickness, or sections of varying thickness. The raw material is then cut into the desired pattern of superelastic components, and thermally shaped into the desired 3-dimensional geometry. Opposite ends of the thermally formed component member may be secured by using rivets, applying adhesives, welding, soldering, mechanically engaging, utilizing another bonding means, or a combination of these bonding methods. Opposite ends of the thermally formed components may alternatively be free-floating to permit increased deflection.

[0045] Once the components are fabricated and formed into the desired 3-dimensional geometry, the components may be electropolished, tumbled, sand blasted, ground, or otherwise treated to remove any edges and/or produce a smooth surface.

[0046] Holes, slots, notches, other cut-away areas, or regions of ground material may be incorporated in the component design to tailor the stiffness profile of the component. Such holes, slots, notches, or other cut-away areas are also beneficial to increasing the bond strength or reliability when attaching the covering(s) to the superelastic components. Cutting and treating processes described above may be used to fabricate the slots, holes, notches, cut-away regions, and/or ground regions in the desired pattern to taper the stiffness along the component, focus the stiffness of the components at specific locations, reinforce regions of the superelastic component, or otherwise customize the stiffness profile of the athletic or other device.

[0047]FIG. 1 shows a racket 6 (e.g. tennis racket, racketball racket, squash racket, badminton racket, etc.) that incorporates superelastic components 2 distributed throughout the stem, the frame, and/or the strings of the racket. The distribution and characteristics of the superelastic component(s) determine the amount of force and the directionality of the force the racket exerts in response to an external force such as a deflection. The superelastic components may be fabricated as a wire, rod, or other geometry containing at least one width, W, at least one length, and at least one thickness, T, configured to produce the desired stiffness and force profile. The width, length, and/or thickness may vary throughout the superelastic components to vary the stiffness profile and resulting response to movement.

[0048] The racket 6 in FIG. 1a incorporates one superelastic component 2 in the stem extending from the handle to the bifurcation; two superelastic components 2, one on each side of the bifurcation and extending to the head of the racket; one superelastic component 2 connecting opposing sides of the bifurcation and acting as a dampener 14, and at least one superelastic component 2 distributed throughout the head frame 8 of the racket and used to attach the string(s) 4 to the racket. It should be noted that the entire frame and/or the entire stem may be fabricated from superelastic components. During manufacturing, the cross-section of each superelastic component may be a circular rod, a rectangular band, a circular or elliptical wire, a square ribbon, a donut shaped tube, or other geometry that provides the desired stiffness to impart the reinforcing and spring forces. It should be noted that the orientation of the superelastic components relative to the racket depends on the purpose for the racket and helps dictate the restriction of abnormal motion and the spring characteristic of the racket.

[0049] The racket embodiment in FIG. 1a has a frame that contains channels 10 through which at least one string 4 passes. The at least one string 4 extends throughout the interior surface of the frame 8 passing from within one channel 10, along the interior surface of the frame outside the channels, and into an adjacent channel 10, as shown in FIG. 1c. The at least one string extends throughout the interior surface of the frame 8 in a sinusoidal, undulating, triangular, or other geometry such that openings between the at least one superelastic component and the frame 8 allow at least one string 4 to pass, as shown in FIG. 1b. The superelastic component(s) extending throughout the interior surface of the frame 8 terminate at a tensioning mechanism or anchoring element 12 designed to secure the superelastic component(s). The tensioning mechanism or anchoring element 12 may also enable tightening or loosening the superelastic component(s) throughout the frame 8. Multiple tensioning mechanisms 12 may be distributed throughout the frame 8 and may be used to manipulate multiple superelastic components and distribute the force profile throughout the frame 8. The ability to alter the tension of the superelastic component(s) enables changing the amount of elastic recoil for the strings 4 and tailor the force exerted against a ball or other item which the racket is intended to hit. A ratcheting mechanism with a long latch may be incorporated in the tensioning mechanism to permit rapid changing of the tension in the superelastic component(s). As such the tension of the strings may be selectively changed depending on the desired hitting response. The mechanisms described above that enable varying the tension of the strings may alternatively apply to modifying superelastic components in the yoke, neck, or other sections of the frame that can be lengthened or shortened. It should be noted that any number of superelastic components may be chosen depending on the manufacturing process, the desired spring constant, and the desired stiffness profile.

[0050] The superelastic components 2 distributed throughout the interior surface of the frame 8 are configured to flex toward the center of the racket in response to an external force, such as a ball or other object hitting the strings 4, and return towards their preformed shape thereby exerting a spring force against the ball or other object. This response keeps the ball or other object in contact with the strings 4 of the racket longer thereby improving the directionality or control of hitting the ball or other object with a racket having such an apparatus, without sacrificing power.

[0051] As shown in FIG. 1d, the strings 4 wound throughout the racket frame 8 incorporate a central superelastic component core to enhance the effect of hitting a ball or other object. Alternatively, the string 4 itself may be fabricated from a superelastic material. The strings may be tightly wound throughout the head along a single plane located along the mid-region of the head as shown in the embodiments above. Alternatively, sets of strings may be offset in parallel planes or staggered in front of and behind the mid-region a short distance to increase the amount of top-spin or slice of the ball. In addition, the sets of strings may contain different tension parameters to enhance this spinning effect.

[0052] The channels 10 incorporated in the frame of the racket may alternatively be fabricated as a continuous, enclosed cavity extending from the handle through the head of the racket for the purposes of containing a dense fluid. The ability of the fluid to migrate throughout the head changes the inertia at the moment of impact.

[0053] The stiffness and spring characteristics of superelastic components 2 distributed throughout the stem and bifurcation of the racket determine the force required to deflect the superelastic components and the amount of elastic recoil. The superelastic components 2 located in the stem and bifurcation of the racket provides a lightweight spring mechanism used to increase the force exerted against a ball or other object. The superelastic components 2 in the stem and bifurcation of the racket 6 may also be fabricated with such a cross-sectional profile to tailor the flexion of the stem and bifurcation of the racket along a desired path. For example, the superelastic components 2 in the stem and bifurcation of the racket may be fabricated with a rectangular or ovalized cross-section to ensure the flexion of the racket extends along the plane perpendicular to the racket head. Alternatively, the superelastic components 2 in the stem and/or bifurcation of the racket may be fabricated in a helical shape to enable slight rotation of the racket thereby improving the ability to create a top-spin and/or slice.

[0054] As shown in FIG. 1a, a dampener 14 may connect opposite sides of the bifurcation to reduce vibrations transferred to the stem of the racket. This helps prevent tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, or other injury resulting from frequent stressing of the elbow, wrist, or other joint. The dampener 14 in this embodiment consists of a superelastic component 2 wound into a helical coil and attached to each end of the bifurcation. The pitch of the superelastic coil may be chosen to match the resonance frequency of the vibrations propagating from the racket head. The superelastic coil dampener thereby counters the vibrations at the racket head to prevent the vibrations from reaching the handle of the racket. The dampener 14 may alternatively be fabricated from tube stock cut into the desired coil profile that matches the desired resonance frequency. Such dampeners may alternatively be attached to the interior surface of the racket head at the top or bottom. Alternatively, the racket head may incorporate such dampeners inside sections of the frame 8, especially at the bottom or top. Such dampener may alternatively be fabricated in the stem of the racket or emanating from the handle of the racket.

[0055]FIGS. 2a and b show swim fins 16 that contain superelastic components. The swim fins may incorporate at least one superelastic component 18 embedded in at least one covering 20. The covering 20 may be fabricated from a rubber, urethane, silicone, or other polymer formed into the desired shape, as shown. The superelastic components 18 in FIGS. 2a and b are preferably fabricated with a rectangular or ovalized cross-section and are distributed throughout the swim fins 16 to tailor the spring force such that the swim fins elastically return towards their preformed shape in response to a deflection. This increases and optimizes the force exerted by the fins against surrounding water to improve the efficiency and velocity when swimming with fins. The stiffness of the superelastic components 18 may be tapered from the proximal region of the fins, located at front end of the boot, at the heal of the fin, or any location relative to the boot, and extend to the distal end of the fins. This may be accomplished by decreasing the width or wall thickness of the superelastic components as they extend from the boot distally, or by distributing individual superelastic components such that the stiffness decreases distally, as shown in FIG. 2a. This aids in matching the desired force response of the fins to the fluid mechanics of propelling a body through water. Superelastic components may also be incorporated in hand fins or other devices designed to displace a volume of water or other liquid in an efficient manner.

[0056] The superelastic components previously described for the racket and swim fins may additionally be modified accordingly for other athletic devices or other devices. FIGS. 3a and b show a ski 22 (waterski, snow ski, or other ski) that incorporates at least one superelastic component 18 within the housing 22 fabricated from fiberglass, wood, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), Kevlar, carbon, carbon fiber, sintered polyethylene material (P-TEX), or other material. FIGS. 3c and d show boards 30 (snowboards 24, skateboards 26, surfboards 28, or other athletic board) that incorporates at least one superelastic component 18 within the housing 22 fabricated from fiberglass, wood, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), Kevlar, other laminate, carbon, carbon fiber, sintered polyethylene material (P-TEX), or other material. The housing 22 may be fabricated such that the superelastic component 18 is removable and replaceable with a different superelastic component 18 having a different stiffness or spring characteristic. Alternatively, the skis 22 or boards (24 or 26 or 28) may be completely fabricated from one or more superelastic components 18 oriented and fabricated to completely define the housing 22.

[0057] The superelastic component(s) 18 in the skis or boards may be distributed throughout the housing 22 to tailor the stiffness and flexion profile to the desired activity. For example, as shown in FIG. 3c, the superelastic components 18 may be distributed throughout the board (24, 26, or 28) such that one or both sides of the board differ in stiffness or elastic recoil from the middle of the board, and/or the front, middle, and rear of the board differ in stiffness or elastic recoil. As shown in FIG. 3e, individual superelastic components may be oriented on opposite sides of the ski 22, or board (24, 26, or 28), which further enables changing the stiffness and elastic recoil distribution. In addition or alternatively, the stiffness profile or elastic recoil characteristics may be distributed throughout individual superelastic components by changing the width or wall thickness, or cutting slots or other geometrical openings that increase flexibility throughout the superelastic component.

[0058] The superelastic components 18 also direct the motion of the skis 22 or boards (24, 26, or 28) depending on the activity. This is accomplished by tailoring the stiffness profile of the ski or board to the desired activity. For example, the superelastic components 18 may be fabricated and distributed to ensure the ski 22 or board (24 or 26) remains in contact with the ground or other surface for the maximum amount of time. This is accomplished by tailoring the spring constant of the superelastic components 18 to dampen the impact of hitting bumps or other irregularities that flex the ski or board and otherwise would cause the ski or board to bounce away from the ground or other surface. Maximizing contact between the ski or board and the ground or other surface improves control and mobility of the ski or board by ensuring the motion imparted by the user is transmitted to the ground or other surface.

[0059] Another improvement in the performance of skis or boards is to enhance the ability to control the slalom or turning. As the user begins to lean, one side of the skis or board flexes into a curve aiding the user in slaloming or turning. The amount of flexion the ski or board allows, and the resulting curvature, depends on the stiffness profile of the skis or board. Therefore, creating a flexible mid-section enables producing more curvature in the skis or board in response to a flexion, thereby producing a tighter turning radius and more control of such motion by the user. The tensile strength and the flex characteristics of the superelastic components enable generating tighter radii of curvature with the skis or board without plastically deforming or causing a failure of the device.

[0060] The bindings or binding attachment mechanisms for the skis or boards above may also incorporate superelastic components or be fabricated from superelastic materials.

[0061]FIGS. 4a and b show a toothbrush 32 that contains a superelastic component 18 at the flex point 42 between the head 34 of the toothbrush 32 and the shaft 33. This flex point ensures the head 34 of the toothbrush, thus the bristles of the toothbrush remains in intimate contact with the teeth while brushing and applies the desired amount of force against the teeth. The use of superelastic materials in this capacity ensures the toothbrush retains the desired amount of spring force between the head 34 and the teeth, and that the flex point 42 does not plastically deform in response to frequent and multiple flexions. The stiffness of the flex point may be tailored to the desired force response by optimizing the cross-sectional geometry, the width, and the wall thickness of the superelastic component 18. The stiffness of the flex point may also prevent damage to the teeth and gums by deflecting above a predetermined force limit to ensure excess force is not applied against the teeth or gums with the toothbrush.

[0062]FIGS. 5a and b show a razor 36 that incorporates a superelastic component 18 at the flex point 42 between the head 38 of the razor and the handle 37. This flex point ensures the head 38 of the razor, thus the blade 40 of the razor remains in intimate contact with the skin while shaving and applies the desired amount of force against the skin. The use of superelastic materials in this capacity ensures the razor retains the desired amount of spring force between the cutting head 38 and the skin, and that the flex point 42 does not plastically deform in response to frequent and multiple flexions. The stiffness of the flex point may be tailored to the desired force response by optimizing the cross-sectional geometry, the width, and the wall thickness of the superelastic component 18. The superelastic component 18 flex point 42 may be tailored with the optimal spring constant to ensure the cutting head 38, thus the blade 40, remains in intimate contact with and at the optimal angle relative to the skin despite irregularities in the contours of the face, or other body region.

[0063]FIGS. 6a to c show an archery bow 44 that incorporates superelastic components 2 or 18. The archery bow frame 48 contains at least one superelastic component 18 configured to permit flexing in response to an external force, mainly pulling on the string 46 thereby causing the frame to deflect into a tighter radius of curvature, and return towards their preformed shape once the external force is reduced or removed. The superelastic components 18 may be contained within a housing of the archery bow frame 48, as shown in FIG. 6c, or fabricated as the housing of the archery bow 44. The stiffness and spring force distribution of the at least one superelastic component may be tailored to the desired spring force by tapering the width, wall thickness, or otherwise changing the cross-section throughout the length of the at least one superelastic component. The string 46 of the archery bow 44 may also incorporate a superelastic component 2 as a central core or the string itself. The string 46 is attached to the archery bow frame 48 with rivets 47 or other attachment means configured to anchor the ends of the string 46 to opposite ends of the archery bow frame 48.

[0064] Superelastic components 18 may be used in the shafts of other athletic equipment to improve the spring response of the shaft upon deflection. FIG. 7a shows a boat oar 52 or canoe paddle that incorporates at least one superelastic component 18 in the shaft. FIG. 7b shows a baseball bat 54 containing at least one superelastic component 18 in the shaft. This superelastic component may alternatively be fabricated to produce a dampening response as discussed for the racket above. Alternatively, the baseball bat may contain a dense fluid inside a channel to increase the inertia at impact as discussed with the racket above. FIG. 7c shows a hockey stick that incorporates at least one superelastic component 18 in the shaft and at least one superelastic component 18 in the flex point between the head and the shaft. These athletic devices are intended to exert a force against an object (e.g. water, a ball, a puck, etc.). By incorporating superelastic components 18 in the shafts of such devices, the maximum force exerted upon the object is increased. Flexion of such devices while swinging or other motion induces a elastic recoil that increases the force exerted upon the object. Similarly, superelastic components may be incorporated in fishing poles, vaulting poles, boat masts, or other device that produces a spring force in response to a deflection.

[0065]FIGS. 8a to g show a golf club 58 fabricated with superelastic components 2 and 18 intended to enhance the performance of the golf club. FIG. 8a shows a golf club that incorporates at least one superelastic component 2 or 18 in the shaft 60 and at least one superelastic component 2 or 18 in the flex point between the head 62 and the shaft 60. FIGS. 8c and d show a shaft 60 fabricated from a superelastic material and a shaft 60 that incorporates an inner superelastic component 50. Golf clubs are intended to exert a force against a ball to propel the golf ball a desired distance. By incorporating superelastic components 2 or 18 in the shafts 60 of golf clubs, the force exerted upon the object may be tailored to the specific golf club purpose. For example, a driver requires the maximum force applied to a golf ball and the force required progressively decreases in known increments as the golf club type changes from the lower irons to the wedges. Flexion of golf clubs that incorporate superelastic components 2 or 18 in the shafts or region between the head and shaft while swinging or other motion induces an elastic recoil that determines the force exerted upon the object. This spring force may be specified by the cross-sectional geometry, width, and wall thickness of the superelastic components.

[0066] The region between the head 62 and the shaft 60 of the golf club may be configured as a flex point depending on the configuration of the superelastic components in this region. As shown in FIGS. 8e to g, the flex point may be fabricated from a superelastic material having the desired diameter and wall thickness profile throughout the length, with a superelastic component 2 wound in a coil or otherwise fabricated with a torque characteristic and inserted inside the shaft 60, or with the shaft 60 of the golf club fabricated from a superelastic material wound in a helical coil, or cut in a helical or other pattern. Such flex points are designed to increase the force exerted by the golf club on the ball by inducing an elastic recoil in response to a swinging motion that produces bending and/or rotation of the head at the flex point. In addition, such flex points may be tailored to incorporate a dampening effect by matching the resonance frequency of vibrations resulting from hitting a ball with the club head.

[0067] As shown in FIG. 8b, the head 62 may incorporate a superelastic component 18 along the contact surface of the head. The head may contain superelastic components 2 coiled or otherwise formed as spring mechanisms and attached to the club head 62 housing 64 between the contact surface of the head and the opposite surface. These superelastic components 2 provide the desired spring characteristic depending on the club type to ensure a consistent distance is obtained when hitting a ball with such golf clubs and correct for mis-hits. The stiffness and elastic recoil profile may be distributed throughout the club head 62 to better ensure consistency in hitting distance and direction by ensuring the same spring force is applied upon contact with the ball throughout the club head.

[0068] Superelastic components may also be incorporated in the core or internal liner of golf balls, baseball balls, or other balls by winding wires, flat sheets, or other raw material geometries fabricated from superelastic components into a ball and encompassing the superelastic components in a covering. The benefit of such a ball is its improved response to deflection.

[0069]FIGS. 9a and b show a racing car that contains superelastic components in specific components configured to flex. It should be noted that such devices are not limited to racing cars but are applicable to numerous automobiles, motorcycles, or other motorized equipment. The car 66 in FIGS. 9a and b incorporates suspension components and aerodynamic components fabricated from superelastic materials or incorporating superelastic components. For example, car 66 contains two wishbone suspensions 71 and 72, two rear suspensions 73 and 74, a pushrod or other suspension, and/or shocks 78 (not shown). These suspensions 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, and 78 may be fabricated from superelastic materials or contain superelastic components within the component housing. As such the superelastic suspensions bias the wheels 67 towards the ground or other surface by applying a desired spring force. This insures the wheel remains in contact with the ground or other surface continuously, and reduces the amount of time the wheels lose contact with the road or other surface. The use of superelastic components in suspensions ensures contact between the wheels and the road when rolling over bumps or other irregularities in the road, when accelerating from a stop or on a wet road, when decelerating on a wet road, or when driving in icy conditions. The increased contact between the wheels and the road improves control of the car, especially when turning or driving along curves, increases velocity of the car, and decreases the time and distance to come to a complete stop.

[0070] Superelastic materials may also be used to improve the performance of aerodynamic components of the car. For example, the front wing 68, rear wing 69, other wings, wing connection links 70, or other aerodynamic aids may be fabricated from superelastic materials or incorporate superelastic components in the part. Alternatively the attachment means of the front wing, rear wing, rear wing connection link, or other part may be fabricated from a superelastic component to tailor the flex point characteristics at the attachment location to the desired response. This helps maintain the stability of the aerodynamic parts when exposed to various forces. Incorporating a spring characteristic in the wings improves the response of the wings to ensure the wings return to its resting configuration when the external force causing the deflection is reduced. Cars require a significant amount of down force while going around curves; however, this down force hinders straight-line speed. As such superelastic components enable flexion of the wings into a less restrictive position at high speeds but quickly returns to the resting configuration which applies a downward force to enhance control at lower speeds, commonly associated with driving around curves. The spring characteristic of the superelastic components may be tailored to specify the transition between the high speed orientation and the downward force position depending on the speeds the cars commonly see these conditions. In addition, the barge boards 79 and/or the attachment means for the barge boards may be fabricated from superelastic materials or contain superelastic components.

[0071] The flex points of the rear view mirrors 77 may also contain superelastic components to prevent plastic deformation when exposed to frequent deflections.

[0072]FIG. 10 shows a bicycle 76 fabricated with superelastic components. The superelastic components may be incorporated as frame inserts 84 designed to tailor the stiffness of the frame and withstand frequent flexions of the frame 82. The superelastic components may be incorporated as shocks 78 or springs to ensure intimate contact between the wheels of the bicycle and the road or other surface. The superelastic component may also be used as a shock 78 or spring connecting the bicycle seat to the frame 82. Superelastic components may also be used as spokes 80 in the wheels, or as the wheels themselves.

[0073]FIG. 11 shows a rollerblade 86 that incorporates superelastic components that connect the wheels 87 to the boot and interconnect the wheels. Shocks 88 or springs, and interconnects 90 fabricated from superelastic materials distribute the spring force along the boot to account for irregularities individual wheels 87 encounter, and maximize the contact between the wheels and the ground or other surface. Such superelastic shocks 88 and interconnects 90 may also be used in roller skates, skate boards, scooters, hockey skates, figure skates, or other athletic device intended to roll.

[0074] Alternatively, the component structures described above may be used in other athletic or other devices that inherently require flex points, shafts that flex upon swinging or other motion, or contact surfaces that determine the amount of force applied to an object. The ability to thermally shape the superelastic components to any form enables customizing the superelastic components to the athletic or other device. In addition, these component member structures may be used in athletic or other devices that require a continuous force to be exerted, or force biased in a predetermined direction.

[0075]FIG. 12 shows a backpack 92 that contains superelastic components distributed throughout the frame 94. The superelastic components are encompassed in a covering 98 that defines the backpack 92. Pocket flaps 96 may also be formed in the backpack 92. Superelastic components enable flexion of the backpack in response to an external force and return of the backpack to its original shape when the external force is removed. The superelastic components are extremely light in weight yet provide substantial tensile strength. Similarly, superelastic components may be incorporated in the frame of kites, tents, or other such device.

[0076] Superelastic components may alternatively be incorporated in exercise equipment associated with applying a desired resistance in response to deflecting a member. For example, several exercise devices apply a resistance upon deflecting a beam, or a bow a desired distance. By fabricating the beam from superelastic materials or incorporating superelastic components in the beam, the resistance provided to the user may be better tailored to the optimal force vs distance profile to improve the efficiency and effects of the exercise. The stress-induced martensite characteristics of superelastic materials enable varying the resistance in a predetermined profile or maintaining constant resistance over a substantially greater distance thereby producing any desired force response. Conventional exercise equipment exert relatively constant resistance over a short distance and the resistance rapidly decreases past this point. Superelastic components also withstand numerous and frequent deflections without plastically deforming or failing thereby making them ideal for such exercise equipment.

[0077] The properties of the superelastic component members or structures described above may be varied to address applications in which the stiffness or elasticity needs to be varied accordingly. The composition of the superelastic material may be chosen to select the temperature range in which the component members or structures exhibit stress-induced martensite. As such, the amount of austenite, and stress-induced martensite characteristics throughout a specific temperature range may be chosen to specify the degree of deflection and amount of force exerted by the superelastic component member once deflected. For example, the superelastic properties of the material may be chosen so as exercise (or other activity) increases, the associated temperature increase induces a change in the superelastic properties of the superelastic component member or structure to provide, for example, increased rigidity and/or elasticity of the material.

[0078] Although the present inventions have been described in terms of the preferred embodiments above, numerous modifications and/or additions to the above-described preferred embodiments would be readily apparent to one skilled in the art. It is intended that the scope of the present inventions extend to all such modifications and/or additions and that the scope of the present inventions is limited solely by the claims of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6955619 *Mar 29, 2004Oct 18, 2005Schutz Ronald WTitanium hockey stick
US7824283May 24, 2006Nov 2, 20102946-6380 Quebec Inc.Pre-stressed hockey shaft
US7871334Sep 5, 2008Jan 18, 2011Nike, Inc.Golf club head and golf club with tension element and tensioning member
US7871335May 20, 2010Jan 18, 2011Nike, Inc.Golf club head and golf club with tension element and tensioning member
WO2006125312A1 *May 24, 2006Nov 30, 20062946 6380 Quebec Inc As ProducPre-stressed hockey shaft
Classifications
U.S. Classification473/520, 473/329, 473/522, 473/332
International ClassificationB60G11/00, A63B49/02, A63B59/00, F16F1/36, B62D35/00, B62K19/04, A63B53/04, A63B31/08, A63B49/00, B62K25/04, A63B59/14
Cooperative ClassificationB62D35/00, B60G2206/70, A63B49/02, B60G2202/14, B62K2025/041, A63B53/04, B62K25/04, A63B2209/00, A63B49/00, A63B59/14, A63B59/0092, B62K19/04, A63C17/0046, A63B31/08, B60G11/00, F16F1/3605
European ClassificationA63C17/00G, B60G11/00, B62K25/04, A63B49/02, A63B49/00, B62D35/00, F16F1/36B, B62K19/04