(19)
(11)EP 3 255 308 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 17171498.3

(22)Date of filing:  17.05.2017
(51)Int. Cl.: 
F16H 25/22  (2006.01)
F16H 25/24  (2006.01)

(54)

BALL SCREW MECHANISM AND STEERING SYSTEM

KUGELGEWINDEMECHANISMUS UND LENKVORRICHTUNG

MÉCANISME DE VIS À BILLES ET SYSTÈME DE DIRECTION


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 23.05.2016 JP 2016102720

(43)Date of publication of application:
13.12.2017 Bulletin 2017/50

(73)Proprietor: JTEKT CORPORATION
Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-8502 (JP)

(72)Inventors:
  • ASAKURA, Toshihiro
    Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-8502 (JP)
  • NAKAYAMA, Takuya
    Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-8502 (JP)
  • OGAWA, Keisuke
    Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-8502 (JP)

(74)Representative: Winter, Brandl, Fürniss, Hübner, Röss, Kaiser, Polte - Partnerschaft mbB 
Patent- und Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Alois-Steinecker-Strasse 22
85354 Freising
85354 Freising (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 2 610 134
JP-U- H 058 104
FR-A1- 2 306 381
US-A1- 2012 192 663
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION


    1. Field of the Invention



    [0001] The invention relates to a ball screw mechanism and a steering system.

    2. Description of Related Art



    [0002] Some ball screw mechanisms include a screw shaft with a helical screw groove on the outer circumferential surface and a nut with a helical screw groove corresponding to the screw groove of the screw shaft. When the nut is threadedly engaged with the screw groove of the screw shaft through balls, an axial force is applied to the screw shaft in accordance with rotation of the nut. This type of ball screw mechanism is used in steering systems that steer steered wheels by converting rotary motion of a motor into linear motion of a steered shaft, such as a rack shaft, as disclosed in, for example, Japanese Patent Application Publication No. 2015-186949 (JP 2015-186949 A) and Japanese Patent No. 5120040 (JP 5120040).

    [0003] A nut used in the ball screw mechanism disclosed in JP 2015-186949 A has a tapered portion at both axial ends to avoid contact with a tool used to provide a screw groove. In the ball screw mechanism disclosed in JP 5120040, a retainer is provided between a rack shaft and a nut to allow adjacent balls to avoid contact with each other. The retainer has retainer grooves and retains the balls in the retainer grooves to allow radially outward movement of the balls and to restrict radially inward movement of the balls.

    [0004] For example, to allow for tolerances of the retainer, the balls, and the screw grooves of the screw shaft and the nut, the dimensions of the retainer disclosed in JP 5120040 may be set such that there is some clearance between the retainer groove and the balls. This allows the retainer to move radially to some extent. Therefore, the retainer may be inclined with respect to the nut, and at worst, the axial ends of the retainer may come into contact with the axial ends of the nut. Such situation may occur also when a retainer is provided in a ball screw mechanism, such as disclosed in JP 2015-186949 A, that uses a nut having a tapered portion to avoid contact with a tool used to provide a screw groove.

    [0005] From document EP 2 610 134 A2a ball screw mechanism with the features of the preamble of claim 1 has become known.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0006] A purpose of the invention is to provide a ball screw mechanism and a steering system that allow a reduction in contact and friction between a retainer and a nut.

    [0007] An aspect of the invention provides a ball screw mechanism including: a screw shaft having an outer circumferential surface provided with a helical screw groove;
    a cylindrical nut having an inner circumferential surface provided with a helical screw
    groove corresponding to the screw groove of the screw shaft; multiple balls; and a cylindrical retainer provided between the screw shaft and the nut. The retainer has a retainer groove that retains the balls to allow the balls to avoid contact with each other. The nut is threadedly engaged with the screw groove of the screw shaft through the balls. An axial force is applied to the screw shaft in accordance with rotation of the nut. The
    nut includes a uniform diameter portion and an enlarged diameter portion. The uniform diameter portion has a uniform inside diameter. The enlarged diameter portion has an inside diameter larger than the inside diameter of the uniform diameter portion. The enlarged diameter portion is provided at at least one of opposite axial ends of a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut. The region faces the retainer groove and
    retainer ends adjoining to opposite axial ends of the retainer groove.

    [0008] The retainer may be inclined with respect to the nut when dimensions are set such that there is some clearance between the retainer groove and the balls to allow for tolerances of the retainer, the balls, the screw grooves of the screw shaft and the nut. If such situation occurs, the axial ends of the retainer may approach and come into contact with the axial ends of the nut in a radial direction.

    [0009] According to this aspect, when the axial ends of the retainer approach the axial ends of the nut, the axial end of the nut provided with the enlarged diameter portion is less likely to come into contact with the axial end of the retainer. This allows a reduction in contact and friction between the retainer and the nut, thus making it possible to reduce a friction torque of the nut.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0010] The foregoing and further features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following description of example embodiments with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals are used to represent like elements and wherein:

    FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating the structure of an electric power steering system;

    FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating the structure of an assist mechanism of the electric power steering system;

    FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram illustrating the structure of a retainer of the assist mechanism;

    FIG. 4A is a cross-sectional view of part of the retainer in FIG. 3 taken along line IV-IV in FIG. 3;

    FIG. 4B is a cross-sectional view of part of the retainer in FIG. 3 taken along line IV-IV in FIG. 3;

    FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the structure of a nut;

    FIG. 6A is a diagram schematically illustrating a situation where the retainer is inclined with respect to the nut; and

    FIG. 6B is a diagram schematically illustrating a situation where the retainer is inclined with respect to the nut.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS



    [0011] Below, a ball screw mechanism and a steering system according to an embodiment of the invention is described. The steering system according to the embodiment is an electric power steering system (hereinafter referred to as "EPS") that assists steering operation of a user by transmitting rotary motion of a motor to the ball screw mechanism through a belt reduction mechanism so as to convert the rotary motion of the motor into linear motion of a rack shaft.

    [0012] As shown in FIG. 1, an EPS 1 includes a steering mechanism 2 and an assist mechanism 3. The steering mechanism 2 steers steered wheels 15 in accordance with a steering operation that a user performs to control a steering wheel 10. The assist mechanism 3 assists the steering operation performed by a user.

    [0013] The steering mechanism 2 includes the steering wheel 10 and a steering shaft 11 that turns along with the steering wheel 10. The steering shaft 11 includes a column shaft 11a coupled to the steering wheel 10, an intermediate shaft 11b coupled to the bottom end of the column shaft 11a, and a pinion shaft 11c coupled to the bottom end of the intermediate shaft 11b. The bottom end of the pinion shaft 11c is coupled through a rack and pinion mechanism 13 to a rack shaft 12 as a steered shaft. Thus, rotary motion of the steering shaft 11 is converted into reciprocating linear motion of the rack shaft 12 in an axial direction (right-left direction in FIG. 1) through the rack and pinion mechanism 13 that includes the pinion shaft 11c and the rack shaft 12. The reciprocating linear motion is transmitted to the right and left steered wheels 15 through tie rods 14 coupled to both ends of the rack shaft 12, thus changing a steered angle of the steered wheels 15. According to the embodiment, the rack shaft 12 is an example of a screw shaft.

    [0014] In the description below, an axial direction refers to a direction along the axial length of the rack shaft 12, and a radial direction refers to a direction perpendicular to the axial direction. The assist mechanism 3 is provided in the vicinity of the rack shaft 12. The assist mechanism 3 includes a motor 20 as a source for generating an assisting force, a ball screw mechanism 30 integrally attached to the periphery of the rack shaft 12, and a belt-type reduction mechanism (hereinafter referred to as the "reduction mechanism") 40 for transmitting the rotational force of a rotating shaft 21 of the motor 20 to the ball screw mechanism 30. The assist mechanism 3 converts, through the reduction mechanism 40 and the ball screw mechanism 30, the rotational force of the rotating shaft 21 of the motor 20 into a force that causes the rack shaft 12 to reciprocate linearly in the axial direction. This axial force applied to the rack shaft 12 acts as the assisting force for assisting the steering operation performed by a user.

    [0015] The ball screw mechanism 30, the reduction mechanism 40, the pinion shaft 11c, and the rack shaft 12 are covered with a housing 16 that extends along the axial direction of the rack shaft 12. The housing 16 is divided in the axial direction at a position near the reduction mechanism 40 into a first housing 16a and a second housing 16b. The first housing 16a and the second housing 16b are coupled to form the housing 16. Each of the first and second housings 16a and 16b projects in a direction (i.e., in a downward direction in FIG. 1) intersecting with a direction that the rack shaft 12 extends in. The outer wall (the right side wall in FIG. 1) of the second housing 16b has a through hole 22. The rotating shaft 21 of the motor 20 extends into the second housing 16b through the through hole 22. A flange portion 17 of the second housing 16b and a flange portion 24 of the motor 20 are coupled together by a bolt 23 so that the motor 20 is fixed to the second housing 16b. The rotating shaft 21 is parallel to the rack shaft 12.

    [0016] Next, the assist mechanism 3 is described in detail. As shown in FIG. 2, the ball screw mechanism 30 includes a cylindrical nut 31 that is threadedly engaged with the rack shaft 12 through multiple balls 32. A helical screw groove 12a is provided on the outer circumferential surface of the rack shaft 12. A helical screw groove 33 corresponding to the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12 is provided on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. A helical space defined by the screw groove 33 of the nut 31 and the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12 serves as a rolling path R where the balls 32 roll. Although not shown in the drawings, the nut 31 has a circulation path that connects two openings in the rolling path R. This structure allows the balls 32 to circulate endlessly in the rolling path R by way of the circulation path in the nut 31. The rolling path R is coated with a lubricant, such as grease, to reduce frictional resistance when the balls 32 roll. The rack shaft 12 and the nut 31 are each made of an iron alloy, such as a steel, and the balls 32 are made of a steel, such as a bearing steel.

    [0017] The reduction mechanism 40 includes a driving pulley 41 integrally attached to the rotating shaft 21 of the motor 20, a driven pulley 42 integrally attached to the outer periphery of the nut 31, and a belt 43 wrapped between the driving pulley 41 and the driven pulley 42. The belt 43 is a toothed rubber belt having a core wire. The driving pulley 41 and the driven pulley 42 are each a toothed pulley.

    [0018] The driven pulley 42 is supported by a cylindrical bearing 44 and is rotatable relative to the inner surface of the first housing 16a. For example, the bearing 44 is a double-row angular contact ball bearing (a type of common, general-purpose bearing). The bearing 44 has load capacity that allows a continuous use of the bearing 44 even after the bearing 44 is subjected to the load (i.e., load rating) that the bearing 44 is expected to withstand a prescribed number of times without damage.

    [0019] On the outer circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42, a stopper ring 45, a locking nut 46, and the bearing 44 are arranged in this order in the axial direction from the side opposite to the rack and pinion mechanism 13. On the outer circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42, the stopper ring 45 is fitted into a flange portion located at an end of the driven pulley 42 that is opposite to the rack and pinion mechanism 13. A screw groove 48 threadedly engaged with a screw groove 47 on the outer circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42 is provided on the inner circumferential surface of the locking nut 46. The stopper ring 45 stops the locking nut 46 from coming off the outer circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42 because the stopper ring 45 is fitted into the flange portion located at the end of the driven pulley 42 that is opposite to the rack and pinion mechanism 13. An inner ring of the bearing 44 is fixed to the outer circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42 by being sandwiched between the locking nut 46 and a flange portion 42a of the driven pulley 42 that projects radially outward. An outer ring of the bearing 44 is fixed by being sandwiched between the first housing 16a and the second housing 16b through fixation members 49 that are provided on both axial sides of the outer ring.

    [0020] On the inner circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42, the nut 31 and a locking screw 34 are arranged in this order in the axial direction from the side opposite to the rack and pinion mechanism 13. A screw groove 36 threadedly engaged with a screw groove 35 on the inner circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42 is provided on the outer circumferential surface of the locking screw 34. The nut 31 is fixed to the inner circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42 by being sandwiched between the locking screw 34 and a flange portion 42b of the driven pulley 42 that projects radially inward. The nut 31 has a flanged end 31a projecting radially outward. On the inner circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42, the flanged end 31a abuts against a step portion 42c that has a wall toward the rack and pinion mechanism 13. The nut 31 has a shafted end 31b opposite to the flanged end 31a. On the inner circumferential surface of the driven pulley 42, the shafted end 31b abuts against the flange portion 42b. As such, the nut 31 is fixed to the driven pulley 42 in the axial direction, in the radial direction, and in a rotation direction about its axis.

    [0021] Thus, when the rotating shaft 21 of the motor 20 rotates, the driving pulley 41 rotates along with the rotating shaft 21. The rotation of the driving pulley 41 is transmitted to the driven pulley 42 through the belt 43. Accordingly, the driven pulley 42 rotates along with the nut 31. Since the nut 31 rotates relative to the rack shaft 12, the balls 32 interposed between the nut 31 and the rack shaft 12 are loaded by both the nut 31 and the rack shaft 12, thus circulating endlessly in the rolling path R. The rolling of the balls 32 in the rolling path R converts a torque applied to the nut 31 into the axial force applied to the rack shaft 12. Accordingly, the rack shaft 12 moves in the axial direction relative to the nut 31. The axial force applied to the rack shaft 12 acts as an assisting force and assists a steering operation performed by a user. A retainer 50 is provided between the outer circumferential surface of the rack shaft 12 and the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. The retainer 50 retains the balls 32 to allow the balls 32 to avoid contact with each other.

    [0022] Next, the retainer 50 is described in detail. As illustrated in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, the retainer 50 is made of resin and has a cylindrical shape extending along the axial direction. One end of the retainer 50 in the axial direction is provided with a rib portion 51 that projects radially outward. The rib portion 51 extends continuously over the entire circumference of the retainer 50. The length of the retainer 50 in the axial direction is set such that the end provided with the rib portion 51 does not project beyond the flanged end 3 1a of the nut 31 in the axial direction and such that the other end opposite to the end provided with the rib portion 51 does not project beyond the shafted end 31b of the nut 31 in the axial direction. The rib portion 51 is located between the flanged end 31a of the nut 31 and the locking screw 34 to restrict the movement of the retainer 50 in the axial direction.

    [0023] The retainer 50 has multiple (16 in the embodiment) retainer grooves 52 that go through the retainer 50 in the radial direction and that are spaced at equal intervals in the circumferential direction of the retainer 50. The retainer grooves 52 extend along the axial direction of the retainer 50 and are inclined at a predetermined angle with respect to the axial direction of the retainer 50 in such a manner that the retainer grooves 52 intersect perpendicularly with a direction that the screw groove 33 of the nut 31 (i.e., the rolling path R) extends in.

    [0024] The structure of the retainer grooves 52 is described in further detail below. As illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B, each of the retainer grooves 52 has a pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b that cause the retainer groove 52 to be tapered such that the width of the retainer groove 52 in the circumferential direction of the retainer 50 increases radially from the inner side to the outer side when viewed from the axial direction of the retainer 50. The pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b define the outline of the retainer groove 52 and are connected together at both axial ends of the retainer groove 52. A tapered angle θr formed by the pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b of the retainer groove 52 has a magnitude that causes a radially innermost width Wa of the retainer groove 52 to be smaller than the diameter of the balls 32 and that causes a radially outermost width Wb of the retainer groove 52 to be larger than the diameter of the balls 32.

    [0025] As illustrated in FIG. 3 and FIGS. 4A and 4B, a predetermined number of balls 32 are located in each of the retainer grooves 52 and are spaced at equal intervals in the axial direction of the retainer 50. The equal interval corresponds to a so-called pitch, i.e., the distance between adjacent turns of the screw groove 33 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. Further, the balls 32 are spaced at equal intervals (i.e., intervals that the retainer grooves 52 are spaced at) in the circumferential direction of the retainer 50. Thus, when the balls 32 are located in the retainer grooves 52, the balls 32 are retained such that each of the balls 32 avoids contact with any other balls 32. In this case, the balls 32 are allowed to move in the radially outward direction of the retainer 50 and are restricted to move in the radially inward direction of the retainer 50.

    [0026] To allow for tolerances of the retainer 50, the balls 32, the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12, and the screw groove 33 of the nut 31, the tapered angle θr and the groove widths Wa and Wb are set such that there is some clearance between the retainer groove 52 and the balls 32 when the nut 31 is threadedly engaged with the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12 through the balls 32. In this case, the retainer 50 is allowed to move to some extent in the radial direction, i.e., in a direction toward or away from the nut 31.

    [0027] For example, when the assist mechanism 3 is mounted in such a manner that gravity acts downward in a vertical direction in FIG. 3, the retainer 50 moves toward the balls 32 in the lower part of the drawing due to the weight of the retainer 50 as illustrated in FIG. 4B, so that the balls 32 abut against the pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b of the retainer groove 52. In this case, there is no clearance between the retainer 50 and the balls 32 in the lower part of the drawing.

    [0028] In contrast, as illustrated in FIG. 4A, since the retainer 50 moves toward the balls 32 in the lower part of the drawing due to the weight of the retainer 50, the pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b of the retainer groove 52 are spaced radially inward from the balls 32 in the upper part of the drawing accordingly. In this case, there is some clearance between the retainer 50 and the balls 32 in the upper part of the drawing.

    [0029] The remaining part other than those illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B includes both a situation where the balls 32 abut against the pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b of the retainer groove 52 and a situation where the pair of tapered surfaces 52a and 52b of the retainer groove 52 are spaced radially inward from the balls 32.

    [0030] Thus, when the balls 32 are retained in the retainer grooves 52, the retainer 50 is radially supported by the balls 32, at least, in the lower part of the drawing while having some clearance with the balls 32, at least, in the upper part of the drawing. Further, when the components of the EPS 1 including the rack shaft 12 remain stationary, the retainer 50 is supported such that the inner circumferential surface and the outer circumferential surface of the retainer 50 are respectively spaced from the rack shaft 12 and the nut 31 so as to avoid contact with the rack shaft 12 and the nut 31. In this case, due to the clearance between the retainer 50 and the balls 32, the clearance between the inner circumferential surface of the retainer 50 and the rack shaft 12, and the clearance between the outer circumferential surface of the retainer 50 and the nut 31, the retainer 50 may be inclined with respect to the nut 31 in such a manner that part of the axial ends of the retainer 50 approaches part of the axial ends of the nut 31 in the radial direction. In this regard, according to the embodiment, the nut 31 has a structure that allows a reduction in contact between the nut 31 and the retainer 50 when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31.

    [0031] The description below details the structure of the nut 31 that allows a reduction in contact between the nut 31 and the retainer 50 when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31. As shown in FIG. 5, the nut 31 has a uniform diameter portion 60 and a pair of enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80. When viewed from the radial direction of the nut 31, the inside diameter of the uniform diameter portion 60 is uniform, and the inside diameters of the pair of enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 are each larger than that of the uniform diameter portion 60. The pair of enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 are provided at both axial sides of the uniform diameter portion 60. Specifically, the enlarged diameter portion 70 is provided at one side provided with the flanged end 3 1a of the nut 31 and includes the flanged end 31a, and the enlarged diameter portion 80 is provided at the other side provided with the shafted end 31b of the nut 31 and includes the shafted end 31b. It is noted that the inside diameter of the nut 31 is measured at the crest of a screw thread 33a on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. The inner circumferential surface of the enlarged diameter portion 70 includes a tapered portion that increases in inside diameter toward an end face of one of the opposite axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the enlarged diameter portion 70 than to the enlarged diameter portion 80. Likewise, the inner circumferential surface of the enlarged diameter portion 80 has a tapered portion that increases in inside diameter toward an end face of the other of the opposite axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the enlarged diameter portion 80 than to the enlarged diameter portion 70.

    [0032] The enlarged diameter portion 70 includes a first enlarged diameter portion 71 adjoining to an end face of the flanged end 31a and a second enlarged diameter portion 72 adjoining to the first enlarged diameter portion 71. The first enlarged diameter portion 71 includes a tapered portion 71a that has a uniform diameter within a predetermined distance from the end face of the flanged end 31a and that is tapered, beyond the predetermined distance, to form an inclination angle θa, i.e., to form a tapered angle 2θa (double the inclination angle θa) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31. The second enlarged diameter portion 72 includes a tapered portion 72a that is tapered to form an inclination angle θb, i.e., to form a tapered angle 2θb (double the inclination angle θb) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31. The tapered angle 2θb (the inclination angle θb) of the tapered portion 72a of the second enlarged diameter portion 72 is smaller than the tapered angle 2θa (the inclination angle θa) of the tapered portion 71a of the first enlarged diameter portion 71. As such, the inner circumferential surface of the enlarged diameter portion 70 has two different inclination angles, i.e., two different tapered angles (one is defined by the first enlarged diameter portion 71, the other is defined by the second enlarged diameter portion 72) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31, and the inside diameter of the enlarged diameter portion 70 changes at two different rates such that the inclination is larger on the flanged end 31a side.

    [0033] The enlarged diameter portion 80 includes a first enlarged diameter portion 81 adjoining to an end face of the shafted end 31b and a second enlarged diameter portion 82 adjoining to the first enlarged diameter portion 81. The first enlarged diameter portion 81 includes a tapered portion 81a that has a uniform diameter within a predetermined distance from the end face of the shafted end 31b and that is tapered, beyond the predetermined distance, to form an inclination angle θc, i.e., to form a tapered angle 2θc (double the inclination angle θc) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31. According to the embodiment, the inclination angle θc is different in magnitude from the inclination angle θa. The second enlarged diameter portion 82 includes a tapered portion 82a that is tapered to form an inclination angle θd, i.e., to form a tapered angle 2θd (double the inclination angle θd) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31. According to the embodiment, the inclination angle θd is equal in magnitude to the inclination angle θb. The tapered angle 2θd (the inclination angle θd) of the tapered portion 82a of the second enlarged diameter portion 82 is smaller than the tapered angle 2θc (the inclination angle θc) of the tapered portion 81a of the first enlarged diameter portion 81. As such, the inner circumferential surface of the enlarged diameter portion 80 has two different inclination angles, i.e., two different tapered angles (one is defined by the first enlarged diameter portion 81, the other is defined by the second enlarged diameter portion 82) with respect to the axial direction of the nut 31, and the inside diameter of the enlarged diameter portion 80 changes at two different rates such that the inclination is larger on the shafted end 31b side.

    [0034] The enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 are respectively provided at the axial ends 31a and 31b in a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that faces the retainer grooves 52 and retainer ends adjoining to opposite axial ends of the retainer grooves 52 when the retainer 50 is located between the outer circumferential surface of the rack shaft 12 and the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31.

    [0035] Specifically, the first enlarged diameter portion 71 is provided in a region S1 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that has no screw thread 33a and that extends from the end face of one of the opposite axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the first enlarged diameter portion 71 than to the first enlarged diameter portion 81. Likewise, the first enlarged diameter portion 81 is provided in a region S1 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that has no screw thread 33a and that extends from the end face of the other of the opposite axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the first enlarged diameter portion 81 than to the first enlarged diameter portion 71. In particular, the first enlarged diameter portion 81 provided at the shafted end 31b of the nut 31 is provided in a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that faces neither the retainer grooves 52 nor the retainer ends adjoining to the opposite axial ends of the retainer grooves 52 when the retainer 50 is located between the outer circumferential surface of the rack shaft 12 and the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. In summary, the first enlarged diameter portion 81 is provided in a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that does not face the retainer 50. The region that has no screw thread 33a of the nut 31 allows part of a cutting tool for machining the nut 31 to be inserted into the nut 31 to provide the screw groove 33. For example, the cutting tool has a rod shape and includes: a mounting portion attached to a main shaft of a machine tool; a cutting portion for cutting the screw groove 33; and a tapered portion that is located between the mounting portion and the cutting portion and that decreases in outside diameter in a direction from the mounting portion to the cutting portion.

    [0036] The inclination angles θa and θc of the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 (the tapered portions 71a and 81a) are set to magnitudes that allow the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 to avoid contact with the cutting tool having the tapered portion when the cutting tool is inserted into the nut 31 from the axial ends of the nut 31. The magnitudes of the inclination angles θa and θc that allow the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 to avoid contact with the cutting tool are empirically determined with consideration of factors including the tapered angle and shape of the tapered portion of the cutting tool. Since the embodiment is based on the assumption that different cutting tools are inserted into the nut 31 from the axial ends of the nut 31, the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 (the tapered portions 71a and 81a) have different inclination angles θa and θc and different shapes.

    [0037] Each of the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 is provided in a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that has the screw thread 33a of the nut 31 and where no ball 32 is located when the nut 31 is threadedly engaged with the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12 through the balls 32.

    [0038] For example, as illustrated in FIG. 3 and FIG. 5, when boundary lines L1 and L2 are defined as lines extending perpendicular to the axial direction of the nut 31 and passing different axial ends of a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 where the balls 32 are located, the second enlarged diameter portion 72 is provided in a region S2 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that extend, to the first enlarged diameter portion 71, from the boundary line L1 toward the end face of one of the axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the boundary line L1 than to the boundary line L2. Likewise, the second enlarged diameter portion 82 is provided in a region S2 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that extend, to the first enlarged diameter portion 81, from the boundary line L2 toward the end face of the other of the axial ends of the nut 31 that is closer to the boundary line L2 than to the boundary line L1. The uniform diameter portion 60 is provided in a region S0 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 that has the screw thread 33a of the nut 31 and where the balls 32 are located when the nut 31 is threadedly engaged with the screw groove 12a of the rack shaft 12 through the balls 32.

    [0039] As indicated by a long dashed double-short dashed line in an enlarged view in FIG. 5, the height of the crest of turns (two turns in the embodiment) of the screw thread 33a of the nut 31 in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 is set smaller than that when the uniform diameter portion 60 is elongated over the entire axial length of the nut 31. In the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82, the crest of the screw thread 33a formed by cutting the screw groove 33 in the nut 31 is further cut down radially outward.

    [0040] Further, the inclination angles θb and θd of the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 (the tapered portions 72a and 82a) are set to magnitudes that allow the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 to avoid contact with the retainer 50 when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31 such that part of the axial ends of the retainer 50 approaches part of the axial ends of the nut 31. The magnitudes of the inclination angles θb and θd that allow the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 to avoid contact with the retainer 50 are determined by adding some margin to magnitudes that are geometrically determined from the axial length of the retainer 50, the clearance between the retainer 50 and the balls 32, the clearance between the inner circumferential surface of the retainer 50 and the rack shaft 12, and the clearance between the outer circumferential surface of the retainer 50 and the nut 31.

    [0041] The embodiment described above has the following effects (1) to (5). (1) As illustrated in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, when the retainer 50 is not inclined with respect to the nut 31, there is some clearance between the outer circumferential surface of the retainer 50 and the nut 31. In contrast, when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31, part of the axial ends of the retainer 50 approach part of the axial ends of the nut 31 in a space between the retainer 50 and the nut 31.

    [0042] For example, when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31 as illustrated in FIGS. 6A and 6B, in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 of the nut 31, the outer circumferential surface in the vicinity of the axial ends of the retainer 50 may enter regions (hatched regions in FIGS. 6A and 6B) that have the tapered angles 2θb and 2θd with respect to the uniform diameter portion 60 and that have the screw thread 33a whose crest is cut down. It is noted that for convenience in description, the nut 31 and the retainer 50 in FIGS. 6A and 6B are illustrated in a simplified manner. In this case, in the regions that have the tapered angles 2θb and 2θd with respect to the uniform diameter portion 60 and that have the screw thread 33a whose crest is cut down, contact between the axial ends of the retainer 50 and the axial ends of the nut 31 is avoidable.

    [0043] In summary, according to the embodiment, even when the axial ends of the retainer 50 approach the axial ends of the nut 31, contact between the axial ends of the retainer 50 and the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 of the nut 31, i.e., the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 of the nut 31 is reduced. The same is true for the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 that are provided to avoid contact with the cutting tool used to provide the screw groove 33 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31. This allows a reduction in contact between the nut 31 and the cutting tool used to provide the screw groove 33 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 while allowing a reduction in contact and friction between the retainer 50 and the nut 31, thus making it possible to reduce a friction torque of the nut 31.

    [0044] When the friction between the retainer 50 and the nut 31 is reduced, wear of the retainer 50 made of resin that is worn more easily than the nut 31 made of an iron alloy is reduced accordingly. Thus, the durability of the retainer 50 is improved, and accordingly, the durability of the ball screw mechanism 30 is improved.

    (2) The first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 respectively have the tapered portions 71a and 81a that increase in inside diameter toward the end faces of their respective closer axial ends of the nut 31, and the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 respectively have the tapered portions 72a and 82a that increase in inside diameter toward the end faces of their respective closer axial ends of the nut 31. This structure allows a reduction in contact between the axial ends of the retainer 50 and the axial ends of the nut 31 in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 of the nut 31 when the retainer 50 is inclined with respect to the nut 31 as illustrated in FIGS. 6A and 6B, for example, regardless of whether the axial ends of the retainer 50 are elongated or shortened. In summary, the embodiment makes it possible to relax the limitations of the specifications of the retainer 50, including the length, that are required to reduce contact between the nut 31 and the cutting tool used to provide the screw groove 33 on the inner circumferential surface of the nut 31 and that are required to reduce contact between the retainer 50 and the nut 31.

    (3) As illustrated in FIG. 5, the height of the screw thread 33a in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 in the radial direction of the nut 31 is smaller than that of the screw thread 33a in the uniform diameter portion 60. When an axial force is applied to the rack shaft 12 in accordance with rotation of the nut 31, the area of the screw thread 33a of the screw groove 33 in the nut 31 to receive stress against load applied to the balls 32 is reduced accordingly. As a result, stress acting on the screw thread 33a in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 increases.
    In this regard, according to the embodiment, since the tapered angles 2θb and 2θd are smaller than the tapered angles 2θa and 2θc, the height of the screw thread 33a in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 in the radial direction of the nut 31 changes at a rate smaller than that when the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 are elongated in the axial direction. This reduces variation in stress acting on the screw thread 33a in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 due to load applied to the balls 32, thus reducing the portion with the likelihood of excessive stress being applied to the screw thread 33a. Therefore, it is possible to reduce contact between the retainer 50 and the nut 31 without sacrificing the durability of the nut 31, i.e., without sacrificing the durability of the ball screw mechanism 30.
    According to the embodiment, the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 are provided in the region S2 where no ball 32 is located. However, the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 may abut against the balls 32 at the screw thread 33a adjacent to the boundary lines L1 and L2 (i.e., at the screw thread 33a located on the near side of the cross-section in FIG. 5) on the boundary lines L1 and L2 sides. In such a case, although the screw thread 33a is lower in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 than in the uniform diameter portion 60, the screw thread 33a in the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 reduces an increase in stress due to load applied to the balls 32.

    (4) One of the axial ends of the retainer 50 is provided with the enlarged diameter portion 70, i.e., the second enlarged diameter portion 72, and the other of the axial ends of the retainer 50 is provided with the enlarged diameter portion 80, i.e., the second enlarged diameter portion 82. Thus, even when part of the axial ends of the retainer 50 approaches part of the axial ends of the nut 31, contact between the axial ends of the retainer 50 and the axial ends of the nut 31 is reduced. This reduces contact and friction between the retainer 50 and the nut 31 more effectively, thus reducing friction between the retainer 50 and the nut 31 more effectively.

    (5) The EPS 1 having the ball screw mechanism 30 according to the embodiment reduces contact between the retainer 50 and the nut 31, thus reducing the influence of such contact on steering feel. Further, when the contact between the retainer 50 and the nut 31 is reduced, noise caused from the contact is reduced accordingly, so that quietness of the EPS 1 is improved.



    [0045] The embodiment described above can be modified in various ways. Some examples of modifications are described below. The nut 31 may have only one of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80. For example, the nut 31 may have no enlarged diameter portion 70 at the flanged end 31a.

    [0046] The magnitudes of the inclination angles, i.e., the tapered angles of the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 and the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 can be changed as needed. For example, for the tapered angles, the relationship between the tapered angle 2θa and the tapered angle 2θb, the relationship between the tapered angle 2θa and the tapered angle 2θc, the relationship between the tapered angle 2θb and the tapered angle 2θd, and the relationship between the tapered angle 2θc and the tapered angle 2θd may be changed.

    [0047] The second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 of the nut 31 can be provided in regions other than the region S2. For example, besides the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81, the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 may be provided in regions that has no screw thread 33a of the nut 31. Further, the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 may be provided in regions where the balls 32 are located. Moreover, the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 may extend from positions away from the boundary lines L1 and L2 illustrated in FIG. 5, toward the end faces of their respective closer ends of the nut 31. When the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82 are provided in regions where the balls 32 are located, the above effect (3) of the embodiment is achieved more effectively.

    [0048] Besides the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82, the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 may include regions that have the screw thread 33a of the nut 31. Any one of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have no second enlarged diameter portion. At least one of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have none of the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81.

    [0049] The enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have the same shape. The enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have more than two tapered angles. The enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have no tapered portion as long as the inside diameters of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 are larger than the inside diameter of the uniform diameter portion 60. For example, each of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have a uniform diameter portion with a uniform inside diameter in their middle part or may have multiple uniform diameter portions with different inside diameters that are combined to change their inside diameter stepwise.

    [0050] The first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 of the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 are not essential elements, and the enlarged diameter portions 70 and 80 may have only the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82, respectively. In this case, the first enlarged diameter portions 71 and 81 are structured to have a uniform diameter. This structure reduces contact between the axial ends of the retainer 50 and the axial ends of the nut 31 provided with the second enlarged diameter portions 72 and 82, thus reducing contact and friction between the retainer 50 and the nut 31.

    [0051] The specifications of the retainer 50, including the length, can be modified as needed. For example, the retainer 50 may have such a length that the end of the retainer 50, opposite to the rib portion 51, reaches the first enlarged diameter portion 81 of the nut 31. This structure achieves effects similar to those of the embodiment. The retainer 50 may have no rib portion 51. In this case, restricting the axial movement of the retainer 50 by adding a stopper ring to the inner periphery of the nut 31 can achieve effects similar to those of the embodiment. The retainer 50 may be made of metal or composite materials.

    [0052] The nut 31 may be supported directly by the bearing 44. In this case, not only the bearing 44 but also the driven pulley 42 are fixed to the outer circumferential surface of the nut 31. This structure achieves effects similar to those of the embodiment.

    [0053] Besides a steering system, the ball screw mechanism 30 can be used for any other system that has a mechanism for converting rotary motion into linear motion. For example, the ball screw mechanism 30 may be used for machine tools and microscopes.

    [0054] The embodiment embodies a steering system as the EPS 1, but a steering system is not limited to an EPS. For example, a steering system may be embodied as a steer-by-wire steering system. Instead of a steer-by-wire (SBW) steering system, a steering system may be embodied as a rear wheel steering system or a four-wheel steering (4WS) system. When a steering system is embodied as a steer-by-wire steering system, a shaft having no rack can be employed as a steered shaft instead of the rack shaft 12 having a rack. In this case, for example, the ball screw mechanism 30 is used to apply a steered force to the shaft as a steered shaft.


    Claims

    1. A ball screw mechanism comprising:

    a screw shaft (12) having an outer circumferential surface provided with a helical screw groove;

    a cylindrical nut (31) having an inner circumferential surface provided with a helical screw groove corresponding to the screw groove of the screw shaft (12);

    a plurality of balls (32);

    wherein the nut (31) is threadedly engaged with the screw groove of the screw shaft (12) through the plurality of balls (32),

    an axial force is applied to the screw shaft (12) in accordance with rotation of the nut (31),

    the nut (31) includes a uniform diameter portion (60) and an enlarged diameter portion (70), the uniform diameter portion (60) having a uniform inside diameter, the enlarged diameter portion (70) having an inside diameter larger than the inside diameter of the uniform diameter portion (60), and

    the enlarged diameter portion (70) is provided at at least one of opposite axial ends of a region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut (31), characterized in that

    a cylindrical retainer is provided between the screw shaft (12) and the nut (31),

    the retainer has a retainer groove (52) that retains the plurality of balls (32) to allow the plurality of balls (32) to avoid contact with each other and the region faces the retainer groove (52) and retainer ends adjoining to opposite axial ends of the retainer groove (52).


     
    2. The ball screw mechanism according to claim 1, wherein
    the enlarged diameter portion (70) includes a tapered portion (71a) in the region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut (31), the region facing the retainer groove (52) and the retainer ends adjoining to the opposite axial ends of the retainer groove (52),
    the tapered portion (71a) having an inside diameter that incrases toward an end face of one of opposite axial ends of the nut (31), the tapered portion (71a) located closer to the one of the opposite axial ends of the nut (31) than to the other one of the opposite axial ends of the nut (31).
     
    3. The ball screw mechanism according to claim 2, wherein
    out of a first enlarged diameter portion (71) and a second enlarged diameter portion (72), the enlarged diameter portion (70) includes at least the second enlarged diameter portion (72), the first enlarged diameter portion (71) configured to avoid contact with a tool for providing the screw groove on the inner circumferential surface of the nut (31), the second enlarged diameter portion (72) configured to avoid contact with the retainer and having an inside diameter different from an inside diameter of the first enlarged diameter portion (71).
     
    4. The ball screw mechanism according to claim 3, wherein
    the first enlarged diameter portion (71) adjoins to the end face of the one of the opposite axial ends of the nut (31),
    the second enlarged diameter portion (72) adjoins to the first enlarged diameter portion (71) and includes a screw thread projecting between adjacent turns of the screw groove on the inner circumferential surface of the nut (31),
    the inside diameter of the tapered portion (71a) of the second enlarged diameter portion (72) is measured at a crest of the screw thread of the nut (31) and increases toward the end face of the closer one of the opposite axial ends of the nut (31), and
    a tapered angle of the tapered portion (71a) of the second enlarged diameter portion (72) is smaller than a tapered angle of the tapered portion (71a) of the first enlarged diameter portion (71).
     
    5. The ball screw mechanism according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein
    the enlarged diameter portion (70) is provided at each of the opposite axial ends of the region on the inner circumferential surface of the nut (31), the region facing the retainer groove (52) and the retainer ends adjoining to the opposite axial ends of the retainer groove (52).
     
    6. A steering system comprising:

    the ball screw mechanism of any one of claims 1 to 5; and

    a motor for supplying the nut (31) with a force that rotates the nut (31), wherein

    the screw shaft (12) is a steered shaft that performs reciprocating axial motion and that has opposite ends, each end connected to a corresponding one of steered wheels (15) that are steered in accordance with the reciprocating axial motion, and

    the ball screw mechanism steers the steered wheels (15) by converting rotary motion of the motor into the reciprocating axial motion of the steered shaft.


     


    Ansprüche

    1. Kugelgewindemechanismus mit:

    einer Schneckenwelle (12) mit einer Außenumfangsfläche, die mit einer spiralförmigen Gewindenut versehen ist;

    einer zylindrischen Mutter (31) mit einer Innenumfangsfläche, die mit einer spiralförmigen Gewindenut versehen ist, die der Gewindenut der Schneckenwelle (12) entspricht;

    einer Vielzahl von Kugeln (32);

    wobei die Mutter (31) durch die Vielzahl von Kugeln (32) mit der Gewindenut der Schneckenwelle (12) im Gewindeeingriff steht,

    eine axiale Kraft auf die Schneckenwelle (12) entsprechend einer Drehung der Mutter (31) ausgeübt ist,

    die Mutter (31) einen Abschnitt (60) mit gleichmäßigem Durchmesser und einen Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser aufweist, wobei der Abschnitt (60) mit gleichmäßigem Durchmesser einen gleichmäßigen Innendurchmesser aufweist, wobei der Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser einen Innendurchmesser aufweist, der größer als der Innendurchmesser des Abschnitts (60) mit gleichmäßigem Durchmesser ist, und

    der Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser an mindestens einem der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden eines Bereichs auf der Innenumfangsfläche der Mutter (31) vorgesehen ist, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass

    ein zylindrischer Halter zwischen der Schneckenwelle (12) und der Mutter (31) vorgesehen ist,

    der Halter eine Halternut (52) aufweist, die die Vielzahl von Kugeln (32) hält, um zu ermöglichen, dass die Vielzahl von Kugeln (32) nicht miteinander in Kontakt kommen, und der Bereich der Halternut (52) und den Halterenden, die an entgegengesetzte axiale Enden der Halternut (52) angrenzen, zugewandt ist.


     
    2. Kugelgewindemechanismus nach Anspruch 1, wobei
    der Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser einen sich verjüngenden Abschnitt (71a) in dem Bereich auf der Innenumfangsfläche der Mutter (31) aufweist, wobei der Bereich der Halternut (52) und den Halterenden, die an die entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Halterungsnut (52) angrenzen, zugewandt ist,
    wobei der sich verjüngende Abschnitt (71a) einen Innendurchmesser aufweist, der sich zu einer Endfläche eines der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Mutter (31) hin vergrößert, wobei der sich verjüngende Abschnitt (71a) näher an dem einen der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Mutter (31) als an dem anderen der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Mutter (31) angeordnet ist.
     
    3. Kugelgewindemechanismus nach Anspruch 2, wobei
    aus einem ersten Abschnitt (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser und einem zweiten Abschnitt (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser, der Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser mindestens den zweiten Abschnitt (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser umfasst, wobei der erste Abschnitt (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser so ausgebildet ist, dass er einen Kontakt mit einem Werkzeug zum Bereitstellen der Gewindenut an der Innenumfangsfläche der Mutter (31) vermeidet, wobei der zweite Abschnitt (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser so ausgebildet ist, dass er einen Kontakt mit dem Halter vermeidet und einen Innendurchmesser aufweist, der sich von einem Innendurchmesser des ersten Abschnitts (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser unterscheidet.
     
    4. Kugelgewindemechanismus nach Anspruch 3, wobei
    der erste Abschnitt (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser an die Endfläche des einen der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Mutter (31) angrenzt,
    der zweite Abschnitt (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser an den ersten Abschnitt (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser angrenzt und ein Schraubengewinde aufweist, das zwischen benachbarte Windungen der Gewindenut an der Innenumfangsfläche der Mutter (31) vorsteht,
    der Innendurchmesser des sich verjüngenden Abschnitts (71a) des zweiten Abschnitts (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser an einem Scheitelpunkt des Schraubengewindes der Mutter (31) gemessen ist und zur Endfläche des näheren der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Mutter (31) zunimmt, und
    ein Verjüngungswinkel des sich verjüngenden Abschnitts (71a) des zweiten Abschnitts (72) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser kleiner ist als ein Verjüngungswinkel des sich verjüngenden Abschnitts (71a) des ersten Abschnitts (71) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser.
     
    5. Kugelgewindemechanismus nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, wobei
    der Abschnitt (70) mit vergrößertem Durchmesser an jedem der entgegengesetzten axialen Enden des Bereichs auf der Innenumfangsfläche der Mutter (31) vorgesehen ist, wobei der Bereich der Halternut (52) und den Halterenden, die an die entgegengesetzten axialen Enden der Halterungsnut (52) angrenzen, zugewandt ist.
     
    6. Lenksystem mit:

    dem Kugelgewindemechanismus nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 5, und

    einem Motor zum Versorgen der Mutter (31) mit einer Kraft, die die Mutter (31) dreht, wobei

    die Schneckenwelle (12) eine gelenkte Welle ist, die eine hin- und hergehende axiale Bewegung ausführt und die entgegengesetzte Enden aufweist, wobei jedes Ende mit einem entsprechenden von gelenkten Rädern (15) verbunden ist, die entsprechend der hin- und hergehenden axialen Bewegung gelenkt werden, und

    der Kugelgewindemechanismus die gelenkten Räder (15) lenkt, indem er eine Drehbewegung des Motors in die hin- und hergehende axiale Bewegung der gelenkten Welle umwandelt.


     


    Revendications

    1. Mécanisme de vis à billes comprenant :

    une tige de vis (12) ayant une surface circonférentielle externe prévue avec une rainure de vis hélicoïdale ;

    un écrou cylindrique (31) ayant une surface circonférentielle interne prévue avec une rainure de vis hélicoïdale correspondant à la rainure de vis de la tige de vis (12) ;

    une pluralité de billes (32) ;

    dans lequel l'écrou (31) est mis en prise par filetage avec la rainure de vis de la tige de vis (12) à travers la pluralité de billes (32),

    une force axiale est appliquée sur la tige de vis (12) selon la rotation de l'écrou (31),

    l'écrou (31) comprend une partie de diamètre uniforme (60) et une partie de diamètre agrandie (70), la partie de diamètre uniforme (60) ayant un diamètre intérieur uniforme, la partie de diamètre agrandie (70) ayant un diamètre intérieur supérieur au diamètre interne de la partie de diamètre uniforme (60), et

    la partie de diamètre agrandie (70) est prévue au niveau d'au moins l'une des extrémités axiales opposées d'une région sur la surface circonférentielle interne de l'écrou (31), caractérisé en ce que :

    un dispositif de retenue cylindrique est prévu entre la tige de vis (12) et l'écrou (31),

    le dispositif de retenue a une rainure de retenue (52) qui retient la pluralité de billes (32) pour permettre à la pluralité de billes (32) d'éviter le contact entre elles et la région fait face à la rainure de retenue (52) et aux extrémités de retenue attenantes aux extrémités axiales opposées de la rainure de retenue (52).


     
    2. Mécanisme de vis à billes selon la revendication 1, dans lequel :

    la partie de diamètre agrandie (70) comprend une partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) dans la région sur la surface circonférentielle interne de l'écrou (31), la région faisant face à la rainure de retenue (52) et aux extrémités de retenue attenantes aux extrémités axiales opposées de la rainure de retenue (52),

    la partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) ayant un diamètre intérieur qui augmente vers une face d'extrémité de l'une des extrémités axiales opposées de l'écrou (31), la partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) étant positionnée plus à proximité de l'une des extrémités axiales opposées de l'écrou (31) que l'autre des extrémités axiales opposées de l'écrou (31).


     
    3. Mécanisme de vis à billes selon la revendication 2, dans lequel :
    parmi une première partie de diamètre agrandie (71) et une seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72), la partie de diamètre agrandie (70) comprend au moins la seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72), la première partie de diamètre agrandie (71) étant configurée pour éviter le contact avec un outil pour fournir la rainure de vis sur la surface circonférentielle interne de l'écrou (31), la seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72) étant configurée pour éviter le contact avec le dispositif de retenue et ayant un diamètre intérieur différent d'un diamètre intérieur de la première partie de diamètre agrandie (71).
     
    4. Mécanisme de vis à billes selon la revendication 3, dans lequel :

    la première partie de diamètre agrandie (71) est attenante à la face d'extrémité de l'une des extrémités axiales opposées de l'écrou (31),

    la seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72) est attenante à la première partie de diamètre agrandie (71) et comprend un filetage de vis faisant saillie entre des tours adjacents de la rainure de vis sur la surface circonférentielle interne de l'écrou (31),

    le diamètre interne de la partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) de la seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72) est mesuré au niveau d'une crête du filetage de vis de l'écrou (31) et augmente vers la face d'extrémité de l'extrémité la plus proche des extrémités axiales opposées de l'écrou (31), et

    un angle progressivement rétréci de la partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) de la seconde partie de diamètre agrandie (72) est inférieur à un angle progressivement rétréci de la partie progressivement rétrécie (71a) de la première partie de diamètre agrandie (71).


     
    5. Mécanisme de vis à billes selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel :
    la partie de diamètre agrandie (70) est prévue au niveau de chacune des extrémités axiales opposées de la région sur la surface circonférentielle interne de l'écrou (31), la région faisant face à la rainure de retenue (52) et les extrémités de retenue attenantes aux extrémités axiales opposées de la rainure de retenue (52).
     
    6. Système de direction comprenant :

    le mécanisme de vis à billes selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5 ; et

    un moteur pour alimenter l'écrou (31) avec une force qui fait tourner l'écrou (31), dans lequel :

    la tige de vis (12) est une tige orientée qui réalise le mouvement axial réciproque et qui a des extrémités opposées, chaque extrémité étant raccordée à une roue correspondante des roues directrices (15) qui sont dirigées selon le mouvement axial réciproque, et

    le mécanisme de vis à billes dirige les roues directrices (15) en convertissant le mouvement de rotation du moteur en mouvement axial réciproque de la tige orientée.


     




    Drawing





















    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description