Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS3638964 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateFeb 1, 1972
Filing dateAug 12, 1969
Priority dateAug 12, 1969
Publication numberUS 3638964 A, US 3638964A, US-A-3638964, US3638964 A, US3638964A
InventorsChute Richard
Original AssigneeEaton Yale & Towne
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Vehicle safety apparatus having expandable confinement
US 3638964 A
Abstract
An improved safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during the occurrence of an accident includes an expandable confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of the vehicle during an accident. A unitary assembly for effecting expansion of the confinement includes a percussion-actuated explosive valve which is impacted with an actuator in response to the occurrence of an accident to effect operation of the valve to an open condition. Opening the valve enables fluid to flow from a source of fluid to the confinement to effect expansion of the confinement. The actuator can be either a mass which is impacted against the valve in response to the occurrence of an accident or a fixed member against which the valve is impacted. The flow of fluid from the source of fluid is at least partially stabilized by a flow regulator assembly to thereby tend to eliminate "peak" or excessively high rates of expansion of the confinement.
Images(3)
Previous page
Next page
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

[ Feb. 1, 1972 VEHICLE SAFETY APPARATUS HAVING EXPANDABLE CONFINEMENT [72] Inventor: Richard Chute, Huntington Woods, Mich.

[731 Assignee: Eaton Yale & Towne Inc., Cleveland, Ohio [22] Filed: Aug. 12, 1969 [21] Appl. No.: 849,394

[52] US. Cl. ..280/l AB, 137/68, 251/48 [51] Int. Cl. ..Br 21/00 [58] Field of Search ..280/ AB; 137/71, 68, 70,

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,436,396 2/1948 McCaslin ..l02/73 X 2,649,311 8/1953 Hetrick ..280/150 2,806,737 9/1957 Maxwell ..280/150 X 2,834,609 5/1958 Bertrand ..280/150 3,197,234 7/1965 Bertrand ..280/150 Primary Examiner-Kenneth H. Betts Att0rneyY0unt and Tarolli [5 7] ABSTRACT An improved safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during the occurrence of an accident includes an expandable confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of the vehicle during an accident. Aunitary assembly for effecting expansion of the confinement includes a percussion-actuated explosive valve which is impacted with an actuator in response to the occurrence of an accident to effect operation of the valve to an open condition. Opening the valve enables fluid to flow from a source of fluid to the confinement to effect expansion of the confinement. The actuator can be either a mass which is im pacted against the valve in response to the occurrence of an accident or a fixed member against which the valve is impacted. The flow of fluid from the source of fluid is at least partially stabilized by a flow regulator assembly to thereby tend to eliminate peak or excessively high rates of expansion of the confinement.

16 Claims, 9 Drawing Figures VEHICLE SAFETYv APPARATUS HAVING EXPANDABLE CONFINEMENT Thepresent invention relates to a vehicle safety apparatus including an expandable confinement having a collapsed inoperative condition and an expanded operative condition for protecting an occupantofavehicle during an accident.

A known safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle includes an expandable confinement having a collapsed inoperative condition and an expanded operative condition. Asensor assembly mounted on a forward portion of the vehicle is operated in response to the occurrence of an accident. A valve in the passenger compartment of the vehicle is operated to an open condition in response to operation of the sensor assembly to enable fluid to flow from a fluid reservoir into the confinement to effect expansion of the confinement. Although several .different embodiments of this safety apparatus are known, one embodiment is illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 3,414,292.

This known safety apparatus effects expansion of the confinement in va manner wherein the fluid flow into the confinement tends to rapidly reach a maximum value and then rapidly decrease. In other words, while the flow of fluid into the confinement takes place over a fixed time period, the majority of the flow of fluid into the confinement takes place during a relatively short timeat the beginning of the fixed time period with a minimal amount of flow taking place during the rest of the fixed time period. Associated with the rapid fluid flow rate is a high noise level. Moreover, the initial impact between the confinement and the occupant may be relatively severe as the initial expansion of the confinement is quite rapid.

Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide a new'and improved safety apparatus for a vehicle including an expandable confinement and a compact unitary assembly for effecting expansion of the confinement without subjecting the occupant of the vehicle to high noise levels or large impact forces as discussed hereinabove.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident including an expandable confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of the vehicle during an accident, a fluid reservoir containing a supply of fluid therein, a percussion-actuated explosive valve for releasing the fluid from the reservoir, and a control valve for controlling the flow of the fluid after it is released from the reservoir, and wherein the control valve effects expansion of the confinement in a predetermined manner so that the noise level associated with expansion and the initial impact between the confinement and the occupant are minimized.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus as defined in the next preceding object wherein the control valve includes means for retarding operation of the control valve to an open condition.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus as defined in the next preceding object. wherein the retarding means includes a chamber having substantially imcompressible fluid therein and wherein movement of the valve tends to decrease the size of the chamber and force the fluid out of the chamber through a restricted outlet.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved, safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident including an expandable confinement having a collapsed inoperative condition and an expanded operative condition for restraining movement of an occupant during the occurrence of an accident, a fluid reservoir having a supply of pressurized fluid therein, and a percussion-actuated explosive valve for releasing the fluid from the reservoir to effect expansion of the confinement to its operative condition.

Still another object. of the present invention is to provide a new. and improved: safety apparatus as defined in the next preceding o'bject further including a mass movable in response to changes infmomentum of the vehicle caused by an accident and wherein movement of the mass effects actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve.

A still further object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus as defined in the next preceding object wherein the sensor mass includes the fluid reservoir and the percussion-actuated explosive valve is carried by the fluid reservoir so that movement of the fluid reservoir in response to a change in momentum of the vehicle effects engagement of the explosive valve with an actuator operable to effect actuation of the explosive valve and release of the fluid from the reservoir.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident including an expandable confinement having a collapsed inoperative condition and an expanded operative condition for restraining movement of the occupant during an accident, a fluid supply operable to provide a supply of fluid to effect expansion of the confinement to its operative condition, and control means for controlling the flow of fluid from the supply to thereby control the rate of expansion of the confinement.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved safety apparatus as defined in the next preceding object wherein the control means includes a control valve which is operable to an open condition under the influence of fluid flowing from the supply of fluid and a means for retarding operation of the control valve to the open condition to effectively control the flow of fluid into the open confinement.

Still further objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description and the accompanying drawings in which similar reference numerals are employed to designate corresponding parts throughout the several views, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a safety apparatus forming a specific preferred embodiment of the present invention, the safety apparatus includes a confinement which is shown in solid lines in a collapsed condition and in dashed lines in an expanded condition;

FIG. 2 illustrates a unitary assembly for establishing a flow of fluid in response to the occurrence of an accident, theassembly being shown in an unoperated condition;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged view similar to FIG. 2 and in which the unitary assembly is shown in an operated condition;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged view of a valve assembly for controlling the rate of fluid flow into the confinement, the valve assembly being shown in a fully open condition;

FIG. 5 is anenlarged view of a percussion-activated explosive valve of the unitary assembly of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 illustrates another embodiment of the unitary assembly for establishing a flow of fluid in response to the occurrence of an accident;

FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along the sectional line 7 --7 of FIG. 6 and illustrating the mounting of a mass for actuating an explosive valve in the assembly of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is another embodiment of the present invention wherein a source of fluid is moved in response to the occurrence of an accident to impact a fixed actuator member with a percussion-actuated explosive valve; and

FIG. 9 is a graphical illustration contrasting a controlled flow of fluid into a confinement with an uncontrolled flow of fluid into a confinement.

The present invention relates to a vehicle safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of the vehicle during an accident. The safety apparatus includes an expandable confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition in which it restrains movement of the occupant during an accident. A source of fluid, a fluid reservoir in the specific illustrated embodiments of the invention, supplies fluid to the interior of the confinement upon the occurrence of an accident to effect expansion of the confinement. A percussion-actuated explosive valve is disposed on the fluid reservoir and is operable to allow fluid to flow from the reservoir upon the occurrence of an accident. The percussion-actuated explosive valve is associated with an actuator mass which moves in response to change in momentum of the vehicle caused by an accident to effect actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve. Actuation of the explosive valve results in a flow of fluid from the fluid reservoir toward the confinement. Suitable flow control means are provided to retard the flow of fluid into the interior of the confinement to control the rate of expansion of the confinement.

As illustrated in FIG. I, an automotive vehicle is equipped with safety apparatus 12 as contemplated by the present invention to protect an occupant 14 of the vehicle. The safety apparatus 12 includes a suitable fluid supply, a fluid reservoir 16 in the specific illustrated embodiment of the invention. Upon the occurrence of an accident, a flow of fluid is provided from the reservoir 16 to effect expansion of the confinement 18. The confinement 18 is shown in its collapsed condition in full lines and in its expanded operative condition for restraining movement of the occupant in dashed lines in FIG. I. A diffuser tube 20 is provided for directing the flow of fluid into the confinement l8. Fluid flows from the fluid supply 16 into the diffuser tube 20 and is directed throughout the interior of the confinement 18 by a plurality of holes located in the diffuser tube to effect a rapid expansion of the confinement 18. Although the safety apparatus as illustrated in FIG, 1 is located in the dashboard 21 to protect an occupant located in the front seat of the vehicle, it should be readily apparent that the safety apparatus could be located in other positions within the vehicle, such as in the back of the front seat, to protect an occupant seated in the rear of the vehicle.

A unitary assembly 22 for establishing a flow of fluid from the reservoir 16 in response to the occurrence of an accident is illustrated in its unoperated condition in FIG. 2. The assembly 22 includes the fluid reservoir 16 and a percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 disposed on one end thereof. Associated with the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 is an actuator mass 26 which is movable in response to a change in momentum of the vehicle to effect actuation of the explosive valve. Suitable flow control means, such as the flow regulator or flow control valve assembly 28 is provided to at least partially stabilize the flow of fluid into the confinement 18. This stabilized flow of fluid expands the confinement 18 at a relatively uniform rate without excessively high instantaneous or peak rates of expansion.

The fluid reservoir 16 contains a supply of fluid 17 therein and is normally sealed to prevent the flow of fluid therefrom by the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. The fluid 17 in the fluid reservoir 16 is under pressure so that operation of the explosive valve 24 from the closed condition of FIG. 2 to the open condition of FIG. 3 enables fluid to flow from the interior of the fluid reservoir 16 through the valve to the interior of the expandable confinement 18. The fluid l7 stored in the reservoir 16 may be of any suitable fluid such as carbon dioxide.

The percussion-actuated explosive valve 24, more fully illustrated in FIG. 5, includes a valve body 30. The valve body 30 has a suitable end portion 32 which is mounted so as to be disposed toward the interior of the fluid reservoir 16. The end portion 32 of the valve body includes a preweakened area 34 thereon. The preweakened area 34 contains a plurality of grooves 35 therein so that upon activation of the percussionactuated explosive valve 24, the preweakened area 34 will be ruptured to form an opening 36 (FIG. 3) through which fluid flows from the fluid reservoir 16. The formation of the opening 36 is more fully described in application Ser. No. 730,024 filed May I7, 1968 by George Ekstrom, now US. Pat. No. 3,567,245.

The valve body 30 defines a chamber 44 with a filler material 38 disposed therein. Preferably, the filler material comprises a low shear strength noncompressible elastomer filler. Disposed within the filler is an explosive means in the form of a pair of percussion-actuated detonators 40. A pair of firing pins or actuator members 42 are suitably located relative to the detonators 40 so that a striking or impacting with the firing pins 42 effects actuation ofthe detonators 40. Although the illustrated embodiment of the present invention includes a pair of percussion-actuated detonators 40 and a pair of firing pins 42, it should be realized that a single detonator and a single firing pin could be utilized. However, by providing a pair of detonators and a pair of firing pins, an impact on either one or both of the firing pins 42 is operable to initiate actuation of the detonators 40.

Upon actuation of the explosive means or detonators 40, the noncompressible elastomer filler 38 is essentially disintegrated and the preweakened area 34 of the end 32 of the valve body 30 is ruptured along the grooves 35 therein. The rupture of the preweakened area 34 and the disintegration of the filler material 38 allows fluid to flow from the fluid reservoir 16 through the opening 36 toward the confinement 18 to effect expansion thereof. FIG. 3 illustrates the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 in the open condition and illustrates the flow of fluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16 toward the confinement 18.

A mass or actuator member 26 is movable in response to the occurrence of an accident to impact with firing pins 42 and thereby effect operation of the valve 24 to the open condition of FIG. 3. The mass 26 is impacted against the valve 24 under the influence of forces resulting from a change in momentum associated with the vehicle encountering an accident. The mass 26 is located on a guiding rod 48 which is operable to guide the movement of the mass 26 when the mass moves in response to a change in momentum of the vehicle during an accident. A suitable biasing means, such as a spring 50 is provided to bias the mass 26 toward a position in which it is spaced apart from the valve 24. The spring 50 is tapered to prevent engagement of the spring with a wall portion 52 of a connector 54 for mounting the mass 26 and flow control valve assembly 28 on the reservoir 16.

The arrow A shows the direction of travel of the vehicle before the occurrence of an accident. If, for example, the vehicle is engaged in a head-on accident from the direction in which arrow A points, the mass 26 will move to the right of the position illustrated in FIG. 2. If the accident is of a sufficient magnitude in which it is desired to operate the safety apparatus 12 then the change in momentum of the vehicle will cause the mass 26 to overcome the biasing effect of the spring 50 and move to the right to impact with the firing pins 42. The impact of the mass 26 against the firing pins 42 effects actuation of the detonators 40 disposed in the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. It should be realized that the combination of the spring rate of the spring 50 and the weight of the mass 26 determines the conditions under which the sensor mass is impacted against the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. Preferably, the spring 50 would have a preload which is two to five times the weight of the mass 26. This prevents the sensor mass from actuating the explosive valve during nonaccident conditions and during conditions wherein the vehicle encounters abnormal road conditions. Moreover, the weight of the mass 26 is preferably sufficient to effect actuation of the firing pins 42 an the detonators 40 at a velocity of IS feet per second. Thus, upon the occurrence of a sufficient change in momentum of the vehicle caused by an accident ofa predetermined magnitude, the sensor mass 26 will slide along the guide rod 48 and initiate actuation of the percussion-actuated valve 24 to effect a flow offluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16.

The flow control assembly 28 tends to stabilize the flow of fluid from the fluid reservoir 16 to the confinement 18. The flow control assembly 28 includes a flow control valve 56 which is operated from a closed condition (FIG. 2) blocking fluid flow to the confinement 18 to a fully open condition (FIG. 4) enabling fluid to flow to the confinement 18 by fluid pressure against a valve member 57. In the closed condition, the valve member 57 engages a valve seat 58 formed on the connector 54.

Upon operation of the explosive valve 24 to the open condition (FIG. 3) fluid flows from the reservoir 16 and presses against the valve member 57. This fluid pressure tends to operate the flow control-valve 56 to the open condition. In assemblies which do not include the flow control valve 56, fluid flows at an extremely high rate into the confinement l6 and quickly expands the confinement. This is illustrated graphically in FIG. 9 wherein this flow of fluid is approximated by the solid line 59. It should be noted that the flow of fluid .quickly reaches a maximum, indicated by the peak 60, and

thendecays as the fluid pressure in reservoir 16 decreases. The transient maximum flow rate corresponding to the peak 60, causes the confinement 18 to be expanded at a relatively high-rate. This high rate of expansion of the confinement 18 can result in a severe impact of the confinement against an occupant of the vehicle.

To provide for a more uniform rate of expansion of the confinement 18, an assembly 61 retards operation of the flow control valve 56 to the fully open condition so that the rate of fluid flow from the reservoir 16 is at least partially stabilized. This is illustrated by the dashed curve 62 in FIG. 9. It should be noted that the dashed curve 62 represents the same volume of fluid-flow as is represented by the curve 59. However, the flowrepresented by the dashed curve 62 tends to stabilize at a relatively low maximum value represented by the relatively flat portion 63 of the curve.

The assembly61 includes a movable cylinder portion 65 whichcooperates with a fixed piston 66 to form a chamber 67 therebetween. The cylinder portion 65 is moved toward the left as viewed in FIG. 2 upon operation of the control valve 56 fromthe closed condition toward the fully open condition of FIG. 4. Since the cylinder portion 65 is connected directly to the valve member 57,.the distance through which the cylinder portion is moved is directly proportional to the extent of operation of the control valve 56 from the closed condition of 'FIG. 2.

A substantially incompressible fluid 68 is disposed within a chamber 67. Preferably, the incompressible fluid 68 is an inert fluid such as silicone oil or grease. Movement of the cylinder portion 65 effects a decrease in size of the chamber 67. However, the substantially incompressible fluid 68 tends to retard movement of the cylinder portion 65 which decreases the size of the chamber 67.

Suitable outlet means in the form of a restricted outlet passage 70 is provided to release the fluid 68 from the chamber 67. A seal member 71 is normally disposed over the outlet passageway 70 and prevents fluid flow therethrough. The seal member is preferably a plastic filler plug which is rupturable under a high pressure. A seal ring 76, preferably an elastomer seal ring, is disposed around the cylinder portion 62 and prevents leakage of fluid 68 from the chamber 67.

A valve member 72 is connected with the cylinder portion 65 and is operable to move therewith. The valve member 72 is disposed so that it moves into. the outlet passage 70 upon movement of the cylinder portion 65 in response to operation of the flow control valve 56. The valve portion 72 is a metering valve and has a notch 74 therein. Movement of the cylinder portion 65 effects a rupture of the seal 71 by the valve member 72.

Release of fluid from the fluid reservoir 16 applies a fluid pressure to the valve member 57. This will effect an initial movement of the cylinder portion 65 to the left as viewed in FIG. 2. Movement of the cylinder portion 65 to the left effects movement of the valve member 72 which in turn ruptures the seal 71 disposed over the outlet passageway 70. It should be realized that the notch 74 on the valve member 72 is operable to control the flow of the substantially incompressible fluid 68 through the outlet passageway 70. Initially, after the seal 71 is broken, .the notched valve member 72 substantially blocks fluid flow through the outlet passageway 70. FIG. 2 illustrates the valve member 72 after a small initial movement thereof and it can be readily-observedthat an opening 73 between the valve member 72 and outlet 70 has a small cross-sectional area. Therefore,'the cylinder portion 65 will encounter a large retarding force by the incompressible fluid 68 as it moves toward the left as only a minimal amount of fluid 68 will exit the chamber 67. However, as the valve member 72 moves toward the left, as illustrated in FIG. 3, greater amounts of fluid 68 will be allowed to flow through the outlet passageway 70 as the opening 73 increases in a cross-sectional area. FIG. 4 illustrates a wide portion 74a of the timing notch 74 in the outlet passageway 70 after the valve member 72 has moved farther to the left. Clearly, the opening 73 increases the crosssectional area as the valve member 72 moves toward the left and the wideportion 74a of the notch 74 enters the outlet passageway 70. When the wide portion 74a of the timing notch 74 enters the passageway 70, the valve member 72 is in a fully open condition (FIG. 4) and provides a minimum resistance to fluid flow from the reservoir 16.

The connector 54 operates to direct the flow of fluid from the fluid reservoir toward the flow control assembly 28 when the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 is activated. When fluid flows from the fluid reservoir 16 through the connector 54, it engages the valve member 57. When the fluid pressure acting on the valve member 57 effects movement of the cylinder portion 65 to the left, as illustrated in FIG. 3. A small opening is then formed between the valve member 57 and the valve seat 58 on the connector member 54. This opening allows fluid to flow from the connector 54 to a distributor tube 86 which is connected in fluid communication with the confinement 18. Since the valve member 57 has been moved away from the valve seat 58 for only a relatively small distance, fluid flows into the confinement 18 at a relatively low rate to initiate expansion of the confinement.

Continued movement of the valve member 57 toward the fully open position of FIG. 4 is retarded by the assembly 61. As the fluid pressure in connector 54 increases, the cylinder portion 65 is moved toward the left and the seal means 71 is broken. This enables a small flow of the substantially incompressible fluid 68 through the outlet 70. As the opening between the valve seat 58 and the valve member 57 increases, the flow of fluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16 to the confinement 18 also increases and the flow of the substantially incompressible fluid 68 through the outlet means 70 will also substantially increase. Thus, it can be seen that initially a small amount of fluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16 will move toward the confinement. However, this fluid will be under a very large pressure. Further movement of the valve portion 60 will effect a larger flow of the fluid to the confinement 18, but this fluid will be under a substantially lower pressure as a portion of the fluid from the fluid reservoir will have already entered the interior of the confinement 18, thus decreasing the volume of fluid 17 remaining in the fluid reservoir 16 and the connector 54. Since the volume of fluid 17 remaining in the connector 54 and the reservoir 16 is reduced and the volume of the reservoir 16 and the connector 54 remain substantially constant, the remaining fluid will have a lower pressure. Therefore, the flow of fluid into the confinement will be at a substantially uniform flow rate. In other words, as the pressure of the fluid 17 remaining in the reservoir 16 and the connector 54 decreases, the opening between the valve member 57 and the valve seat 58 will increase as the cylinder portion 65 moves to the left and the substantially incompressible fluid 68 continues to flow from the chamber 67.

The flow control valve 28 which initially retards fluid flow to the confinement l8 acts to minimize the noise level associated with the expansion of the confinement l8 and also minimizes the initial impact between the confinement l8 and the occupant. As shown in FIG. 9, the prior art safety apparatus effects expansion of the confinement in a manner represented by the curve 59 wherein the fluid flow into the confinement tends to rapidly reach a maximum value and then rapidly decrease. In the known safety apparatus, the flow of fluid into the confinement takes place over a fixed time period of approximately 0.05 seconds, however, the majority of the fluid flow is concentrated in the beginning of the time period, i.e., approximately 0.02 seconds and thus, an extremely rapid initial expansion of the confinement takes place. Associated with this extremely rapid initial expansion and the extremely high flow rate in the known safety apparatus is a very high noise level which may be detrimental to the ears of the occupant of the vehicle. Moreover, the extremely high flow rate at the beginning of the expansion period effects an extremely rapid initial expansion of the confinement. This rapid initial expansion of the confinement may tend to cause severe impact forces between the confinement and the occupant. The control valve 28 tends to stabilize the flow of fluid into the confinement over the fixed period of time, as is illustrated by the curve 62 in FIG. 9. It should be noted from the curve 62 that, while total time for the expansion of the confinement 18 is essentially the same as that for the known safety apparatus represented by the curve 59, the flow rate tends to be more uniform. The control valve 28, therefore, utilizes the same total time period for expansion of the confinement but the flow rate during this time period is more uniform and has a substantially lower maximum flow rate. By reducing the maximum flow rate into the confinement, the noise level associated with the expansion of the-confinement is thereby reduced. Moreover, by reducing the maximum flow rate, the initial expansion of the confinement takes place at a substantially lower speed than the initial expansion of the confinement in the prior art. This tends to minimize impact forces between the occupant and the expanding confinement. While the flow control valve 28 has been illustrated as associated with a fluid reservoir having a pressurized fluid stored therein it should be obvious that the valve 28 could also be effectively utilized with a fluid supply of gas generating material.

Another embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 6 wherein the explosively actuated valve 24 is associated with a sensor mass 90. The sensor mass 90 is disposed within a chamber 92. The chamber 92 has wall portions 94 thereof which substantially surround the sensor mass 90. The mass 90 is constructed so that it has a suitable seal edge 96 which cooperate with the walls 94 of the chamber 92 and provide a fluid seal therebetween. Asuitable tapered spring 50 is provided to bias the sensor mass 90 and to prevent actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 during a nonaccident condition. The spring 50 biases the sensor mass against a shear-type C-ring 98 and holds the sensor mass in its unactuated position, illustrated in FIG. 6, during nonaccident conditions. The chamber 92 is provided with a suitable outlet vent 100 which is operable to relieve pressure in the left portion 92a of the chamber 92 in the event of movement of the mass 90. A suitable guiding rod 102 is disposed in the chamber 92 and is operable to guide movement of the mass 90 toward the firing pins 42 of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. A manifold 104 is disposed around the wall portion 94 of the chamber 92 and is connected in fluid communication with the interior of the confinement 18 by a duct 105. The wall portion 94 of the chamber 92 has a plurality offluid ports 106 therein which provide for fluid communication between the manifold 104 and the chamber 92. Preferably, the fluid ports 106 are symmetrical as illustrated in FIG. 7 and provide for minimum reaction during actuation of the safety apparatus 12.

The vehicle in which the safety apparatus is utilized is assumed to be moving forwardly in the direction of arrow C prior to an accident. Upon the occurrence of an accident, the vehicle decelerates and the change in momentum of the vehicle causes the mass 90 to move against the biasing force of the spring 50 and the mass 90 engages the firing pins 42 to effect actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. Preferably, the mass 90 travels between 0.25 and 0.50 inches to effect actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24. Actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 effects a flow of fluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16 into the chamber 92. This flow of fluid and the biasing effect of the spring 50 moves the sensor mass 90 to the left and breaks the shear C-ring 98. The breaking of the shear ring 98 allows the mass 90 to move to the left to close the outlet vent 100 and prevent fluid flow therethrough. The seal edges 96 on the mass 90 provide for sealing of the fluid 17 from the fluid reservoir 16 in the chamber 92 as the mass moves to the left to prevent the flow of fluid from the fluid reservoir through the outlet means which are vented to the atmosphere upon initial actuation of the valve 24. As the mass 90 moves to the left, the fluid in the chamber 92 will exit there from through the ports 106 to the manifold 104. It should be noted that the expansion means illustrated in FIG. 6 is nonelectric expansion means and is not subject to the reliability problems associated with electric circuits. Moreover, the expansion means is a selfcontained unit and is constructed so that its reliability is maximized. Thus, a self-contained mechanical actuation system for a safety apparatus has been provided.

A further embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 8, which shows a fluid reservoir 110 disposed within a container 112. The fluid reservoir 110 includes a percussionactuated explosive valve 24 disposed on one end thereof. The reservoir 110 is operable to move longitudinally within the interior of the container 112 and is normally biased against a stop portion 114 of the confinement 112 by a spring means 116. Preferably, the spring member is a low rate spring having a preload of 2% to 5 times that of the reservoir weight. Suitable guiding members 118 are disposed on the walls 120 of the reservoir 110 and cooperate with the sides 122 of the container 112 to guide longitudinal movement of the reservoir 110. The guides 118 also cooperate with the wall portions 122 to prohibit the flow of fluid therebetween when fluid flow from the reservoir 110 is initiated.

The present embodiment is mounted on the vehicle so that the direction of travel of the vehicle is generally in the direction of arrow B. However, when the vehicle encounters an accident, the momentum of reservoir 110 and the percussion-actuated explosive valve will move them to the left. Movement of the reservoir 110 and the valve 24 to the left will impact an actuator portion 124 of the container 112 with the firing pins 42. Impacting of the firing pins 42 and the actuator portion 124 effects actuation of the percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 to the open condition and allows fluid to flow from the fluid reservoir 110 into the interior of the container 112. The combination of the fluid flow from the reservoir 110 and the biasing effect of the spring 116 will then effect movement of the reservoir to the right so that it engages the stop portion 114. The interior of the container 112 is in communication with a manifold member 126 by means of orifices 128 disposed on the walls 122 of the container 112. Thus, when the explosive-actuated valve is actuated, the fluid will flow into the container 112 from the fluid reservoir 110, through the openings 128 and into the gas manifold 126. The gas manifold is in fluid communication with the interior of the expandable confinement 18 by suitable means, such as a distributor tube. Thus, it can be seen that upon the occurrence of an accident, the change in momentum of the vehicle will effect movement of the fluid reservoir 110 and the percussionactuated explosive valve 24 to effect actuation of the explosive valve and expansion of the confinement.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 8, the reservoir 110 and the explosive valve 24 combine to form a sensor mass that is moved in response to change in momentum of the vehicle effected by the occurrence of an accident. Therefore, a nonelectrical self-contained unit for effecting expansion of the confinement has been provided. Moreover, the need for a separate sensor mass has been eliminated and a compact and economical system has been provided, It should be realized that in this embodiment and the other embodiments, the preload biasing force which the spring exerts against the sensor mass, in this case the reservoir 110 and the explosive actuated valve 24, and the weight of the sensor determines the minimum change in momentum in which the apparatus will effect expansion ofthe confinement.

From the hereinabove disclosure a new and improved safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle has been provided. The safety apparatus includes an expandable confinement 18 having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining movement of an occupant relative to the vehicle during an accident. Expansion of the confinement 18 is effected. by flow of a fluid from a fluid supply. In the specific illustrated embodiments, a fluid reservoir having a supply of'pressurized fluid therein is used, but it should also be contemplated that a gas-generating material could be utilized in the present invention. Associated with the fluid supply is a percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 which is operable to .openvth'efluid supply and release the supply of fluid therefrom uponthe occurrence of an accident. A sensor mass is movable in response to achange in momentum effected by an accident to actuatethe percussion-actuated explosive valve 24 upon the'occurrence of an accident. The sensor mass operates in response :to a change in momentum of the vehicle and is associated with'suitable biasing means so that the percussion-actuated explosive valve is actuated only during predetermined accident conditions. Suitable flow control means, such as a flow control valve 28 is utilized to retard the flow of fluid from the fluid: reservoir into the confinement. The flow control means minimizes noise associated with the expansion of the confinement and minimizes the initial impact between the expanding confinement and the occupant. Moreover, the combination-of the percussion-actuated explosive valve and the sensor-mass provide for a reliable nonelectrical system which is a self-contained compact unit.

Having described a preferred embodiment of my invention, lclaim:.-

l. A safetyapparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident, said safety apparatus comprising a confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition forrestraining an occupant of a vehicle, a source of fluid, valve means movable between a closed position at least partially-blocking fluid flow from'said source of fluid and an open position enabling fluid to flow from said source of fluid to effect expansion of said confinement, and means responsive to the position of said valve means for regulating the velocity of said valve means in moving from said closed position to said open posi'tion to control the rate of fluid flow from said source of fluid to thereby at least partially control the rate of expansion of said confinement.

2.'A.safety apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein said valve means includes a body defining an opening through which fluid flows from said source of fluid toward said confinement and a valve member for blocking said opening when said valve means is in the closed condition, said valve means being-operable to the open condition under the influence of pressure applied against said valve member by fluid from said source of fluid.

3. Safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident, said safety apparatus comprising a confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition, a first'source of fluid, main valve means operable from a closed condition atleast partially blocking fluid flow from said source of fluid-toan open condition to enable fluid to flow from said first source of 'fluid to effect expansion of said confinement, a second. source of fluid, secondary valve means operablefrom a closed condition to an open conditionto enable fluid to flow'fromfsaid second source of fluid, and means operatively interconnecting said main and secondary valve means for-enabling said main valve means to be operated from the closedcondition to the open condition at a rate which is a function of fluid flowfrom said second source of fluid through said secondary. valve means to thereby at least partially controlexpansion of said confinement.

4. Aqsafety apparatus as set forth in claim 3 further including explosive valvemeansioperable from a closed condition to an opencondition-upon the occurrence of an accident to enable fluid to flow fromsaidv first sourceof fluid to said main valvemeans.

. 5. A safety apparatus as set forth in claim 3 wherein said secondary valve means includes means for limiting fluidflow through said secondary valve-means to a rate which is a function ofthe extent of operation of said main valve means from theclosed condition.

6. A safety apparatus as set forth in claim 3 wherein said second source of fluid includes means for defining a variable size chamber for holding fluid, said means for operatively interconnecting'said main and secondary valve means being operable to decrease the size of said chamber to force fluid therefrom through said secondary valve means.

7. A safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident, said safety apparatus comprising a confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of a vehicle, a source of fluid, valve means operable between a closed condition at least partially blocking 'fluid flow from said source of fluid and an open condition enabling fluid to flow from said source of fluid to effect expansion of said confinement, means for retarding operation of said valve means from said closed condition to said open condition to control the rate of fluid flow from said source of fluid to thereby at least partially control the rate of expansion of said confinement, and means for establishing a flow of fluid from said source of fluid to said valve means in response to the occurrence of an accident.

8. A safety apparatus as set forth in claim 7 wherein said means for establishing a flow of fluid includes a percussion-actuated explosive valve and actuator means for impacting with said percussion-actuated explosive valve to effect operation thereof to an open condition upon the occurrence of an accident.

9. A safety apparatus as set forth in claim 7 further includ ing means for mounting said valve means and said means for retarding operation of said valve means on said source of fluid to thereby provide a unitary construction.

10. A safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident, said safety apparatus comprising a confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of a vehicle, a source of fluid, valve means operable between a closed condition at least partially blocking fluid flow from said source of fluid and an open condition enabling fluid to flow from said source of fluid to effect expansion ,of said confinement, and means for retarding operation of said valve means from said closed condition to said open condition to control the rate of fluid flow from said source of fluid to thereby at least partially control the rate of expansion of said confinement including a second source of fluid and means for enabling said valve means to be operated to the open condition at a rate which is a function of fluid flow from said second source of fluid.

11. A safetyapparatus as set forth in claim 10 wherein said second source of fluid includes variable size chamber means for holding fluid and outlet means for restricting fluid flow from said variable size chamber means, said valve means being operatively connected to said variable size chamber means in such a manner that operation of said valve means from the closed condition to the open condition effects a flow in fluid from said variable size chamber through said outlet means and a corresponding decrease in the size of said variable size chamber means.

12. A safety apparatus for protecting an occupant of a vehicle during an accident, said safety apparatus comprising a confinement having a collapsed condition and an expanded condition for restraining an occupant of a vehicle, a source of fluid, means for establishing a flow of fluid from said source of fluid to effect expansion of said confinement upon the occurrence of an accident, said means comprising impact actuatable means operable to provide fluid from said source of'fluid and actuator means for impacting with said impact actuable means in response to the occurrence of an accident, valve means operable between a closed condition at least partially blocking fluid flow from said source of fluid and an open condition enabling fluid to flow from said source of fluid to effect expansion of said confinement, and means for retarding operation of said valve means from said closed condition to said open condition to control the rate of fluid flow from said source of fluid to thereby at least partially control the rate of expansion of said confinement.

panded condition in which the confinement restrains an occul0 pant of the vehicle during an accident, a source of fluid, means for connecting said source of fluid in fluid communication with said confinement, and first and second valve means for controlling fluid flow from said source offluid,

said first valve means being operable from a closed condition to an open condition to enable fluid to flow from said source of fluid to said second valve means upon the occurrence of an accident, said second valve means being operable from a closed condition at least partially blocking fluid flow toward said confinement to an open condition after operation of said first valve means to the open condition in response to opening of said first valve means, said second valve means at least partially controlling the rate of flow of fluid from said source of fluid to thereby control the rate of expansion of said confinement,

said second valve means including a control valve disposed in a path of fluid flow between said source of fluid and said confinement, and means for retarding operation of said control valve to the open condition to thereby control the flow of fluid to effect expansion of said confinement in a predetermined manner.

15. Safety apparatus as defined in claim 14 wherein said means for retarding operation of said control valve includes chamber means for holding a fluid and means for decreasing the size of said chamber means in response to operation of said control valve from the closed condition to the open condition, said chamber means including outlet means for restricting a flow of fluid from said chamber means to thereby retard decreasing the size of said chamber means and operation of said control valve.

16. Safety apparatus as defined in claim 15 wherein said means for retarding operation of said control valve further includes means for limiting the rate at which fluid flows from said chamber means to a rate which is a function of the extent of operation of said control valve.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2436396 *Mar 6, 1945Feb 24, 1948Mccaslin James FInertia actuated magnetic fuze firing pin
US2649311 *Aug 5, 1952Aug 18, 1953John W HetrickSafety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles
US2806737 *Apr 11, 1955Sep 17, 1957Paul M MaxwellInflatable collision shield for vehicles
US2834609 *Nov 5, 1956May 13, 1958Harry A BertrandPassenger safety device for vehicles
US3197234 *Jun 10, 1963Jul 27, 1965Bertrand Harry ASafety device for vehicle passengers
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3718332 *Aug 27, 1971Feb 27, 1973Gen Motors CorpOccupant restraint system
US3741580 *Aug 27, 1971Jun 26, 1973Gen Motors CorpOccupant restraint system
US3743318 *Apr 23, 1971Jul 3, 1973Nissan MotorVehicular safety device
US3747953 *Nov 1, 1971Jul 24, 1973Volkswagenwerk AgSafety device for vehicle occupants
US3752500 *Mar 1, 1971Aug 14, 1973Gen Motors CorpOccupant restraint system
US3761655 *Nov 29, 1972Sep 25, 1973Gen Motors CorpSwitch actuating bourdon tube with mounting bolt providing fluid communication between pressure source and bourdon tube
US3768833 *Nov 26, 1971Oct 30, 1973Eaton CorpFlow control valve
US3796441 *Sep 28, 1971Mar 12, 1974Foehl ArthurSafety device for the protection of vehicle and airplane passengers
US3797853 *Apr 13, 1972Mar 19, 1974Dynamit Nobel AgSafety device for vehicles
US3806153 *Feb 7, 1972Apr 23, 1974Olin CorpSafety bag inflation for vehicles
US3847412 *Jun 27, 1972Nov 12, 1974J MattsonInflating plug
US3862767 *Oct 22, 1971Jan 28, 1975Eaton CorpVehicle safety apparatus having expandable confinement
US3948540 *May 15, 1974Apr 6, 1976Eaton CorporationControlled flow fluid supply for occupant restraint systems
US3966224 *Nov 3, 1971Jun 29, 1976General Motors CorporationMultiple inflation rate occupant restraint system
US4110813 *Dec 17, 1975Aug 29, 1978Daimler-Benz AktiengesellschaftIgnition device for passive retention system
US5129674 *Nov 27, 1990Jul 14, 1992Trw Vehicle Safety Systems Inc.Reaction device for air bag module
US5195777 *Feb 18, 1992Mar 23, 1993Trw Inc.Air bag inflator
US5213362 *Sep 30, 1991May 25, 1993Trw Vehicle Safety Systems Inc.Stab igniter assembly
US5226667 *Sep 30, 1991Jul 13, 1993Trw Vehicle Safety Systems Inc.Percussion igniter assembly
US5233925 *Mar 10, 1992Aug 10, 1993Trw Repa GmbhPercussion igniter for a pyrotechnical gas generator provided with a priming cap
US5257817 *Feb 18, 1992Nov 2, 1993Trw Inc.Air bag inflator having a ball piston valve assembly
US5542695 *Dec 28, 1993Aug 6, 1996R. Stresau Laboratory, Inc.Air bag deployment system
US5609359 *Sep 15, 1995Mar 11, 1997Morton International, Inc.Pintle controlled orifice inflator
US5618057 *Sep 15, 1995Apr 8, 1997Morton International, Inc.For providing gas to inflate an air bag
US6068289 *Sep 30, 1997May 30, 2000Trw Occupant Restraint Systems Gmbh & Co. KgCompressed gas accumulator for a vehicle occupant restraint system and gas bag module
US6283677 *Jul 23, 1999Sep 4, 2001The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The NavyTailorable elastomeric composite pneumatic fender system for absorbing high energy impact
US6328336 *Jan 31, 1997Dec 11, 2001Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Gas generating device for air bag apparatus
US6540442Aug 31, 2001Apr 1, 2003The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The NavyHigh energy impact absorption fender system using valvular control logic
US7845679 *Oct 19, 2005Dec 7, 2010Autoliv Development AbGas generator fitted with pressure regulator means, and a safety device fitted therewith
DE2801426A1 *Jan 13, 1978Jul 20, 1978Foerenade FabriksverkenAufprallfuehler
DE4304854A1 *Feb 17, 1993Aug 19, 1993Trw IncTitle not available
DE4305035A1 *Feb 18, 1993Aug 19, 1993Trw IncTitle not available
DE19650630A1 *Dec 6, 1996Jun 10, 1998Temic Bayern Chem Airbag GmbhGasgenerator
EP0763451A1 *Sep 5, 1996Mar 19, 1997Morton International, Inc.Continuously variable controlled orifice inflator
EP0763452A1 *Sep 5, 1996Mar 19, 1997Morton International, Inc.Pintle controlled orifice inflator
EP0816185A1 *Jan 31, 1997Jan 7, 1998Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Gas generating device for air bag
EP0835789A1 *Sep 22, 1997Apr 15, 1998TRW Occupant Restraint Systems GmbHPressure accumulator for a vehicle passenger restraint system
EP1375265A1 *Jan 31, 1997Jan 2, 2004Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Gas generating apparatus for air bag apparatus
Classifications
U.S. Classification280/736, 137/68.13, 251/48, 137/68.19
International ClassificationB60R21/16, B60R21/33, B60R21/268, B60R21/26
Cooperative ClassificationB60R21/33, B60R21/268
European ClassificationB60R21/33, B60R21/268
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 11, 1988ASAssignment
Owner name: TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYSTEMS INC., 1900 RICHMOND ROA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST.;ASSIGNOR:TRW AUTOMATIC PRODUCTS, INC., A CORP. OF OH;REEL/FRAME:004851/0430
Effective date: 19880331
Owner name: TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYSTEMS INC.,OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:TRW AUTOMATIC PRODUCTS, INC., A CORP. OF OH;REEL/FRAME:4851/430
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:TRW AUTOMATIC PRODUCTS, INC., A CORP. OF OH;REEL/FRAME:004851/0430
Owner name: TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYSTEMS INC., OHIO
Aug 24, 1987ASAssignment
Owner name: TRW AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCTS INC., 61166 VAN DYKE AVENU
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST.;ASSIGNOR:EATON CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:004756/0244
Effective date: 19870722