BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates generally to an improved vehicle suspension
system. More particularly, the invention relates to a beam type suspension system
which provides a pair of beams which are both lightweight and simple to manufacture.
Specifically, the invention relates to a suspension system having a laminate beam
extending around the axle, and intermediate the axle and the hanger bracket.
The trucking industry has witnessed a dramatic increase in the cost
associated with transporting goods. Additionally, weight restrictions on over-the-road
trucks have become increasingly stringent. These changes in the trucking industry
pointed to a need for suspension systems that are lightweight and which safely support
increasingly larger loads.
Suspension systems may take a variety of forms, including parallelogram
suspensions, and leading and trailing beam type suspensions. Generally, leading
and trailing beam type suspensions include a pair of longitudinally extending beams
which may either be flexible or rigid, one of which is located adjacent each of
two longitudinally extending frame rails located beneath the body of the truck or
trailer. These beams are pivotally connected at one end to a hanger bracket extending
downwardly from the frame, with an axle extending between the beams adjacent the
other end. Additionally, an air or coil spring is generally positioned intermediate
each frame rail and a corresponding beam. The beam may extend forwardly or rearwardly
of the pivot, thus defining a leading or trailing beam respectively. Beam type suspension
systems are used on a significant number of trucks and trailers, and must have sufficient
strength to resist lateral and axial deflection while remaining stable. Lateral
forces act on a suspension system in a variety of ways with the most common being
that lateral forces act on a suspension as a vehicle negotiates a turn. As the vehicle
turns, sheer stress acts between the tire and the road surface causing lateral force
to be transferred through the tire wheel assembly to the axle. The axle, being rigidly
attached to the suspension, transfers the lateral force into the beam causing it
to deflect laterally. This lateral deflection can be extreme, and under certain
loading conditions, can cause the tires to contact the vehicle frame rails.
Alternatively, parallelogram suspensions have been developed to solve
a number of the problems associated with trailing beam type suspensions. However,
parallelogram suspensions are not inherently roll rigid, and do not inherently provide
lateral stiffness. Nonetheless, they continue to gain in popularity as parallelogram
stabilized suspensions permit the air spring's full capacity to be utilized as the
top and bottom air spring plate remain substantially parallel throughout axial lift
operations. Specifically, when the air spring is mounted on a moving link of the
parallelogram, it allows the utilization of the air spring's full lift capacity,
compared to the typical trailing arm design where the air spring travels in an arc
or "fans" open, stretching the rearmost internal reinforcing fibers of the spring,
while not fully utilizing the forward part of the air spring.
Roll stability refers to the counteracting forces operating on the
end of an axle causing one end of the axle to raise relative to the frame a distance
greater than the other end of the axle. Roll instability is encountered when the
vehicle frame tilts or rolls excessively relative to the axle; for example, when
the vehicle negotiates a turn such that the centrifugal and acceleration forces
reduce the downward forces acting on the inside wheel of the turn, and increase
the downward force acting on the outside wheel of the turn to the point of loss
of vehicle control or tip over. Some roll flexibility is needed to allow the axle
to move relative to the frame; for example, during diagonal axle walk.
Diagonal axle walk occurs when the wheels at the opposite ends of
the axle encounter unlike irregularities in a road or off-the-road surface, such
as when one wheel rides over a curb. As the wheel rides over the curb, an upward
force acts on that wheel, and a counteracting downward force acts on the wheel not
riding over the curb. If the suspension is unable to provide flexibility between
the axle and the frame as the tire-wheel assembly travels over the curb or ground
irregularity, or alternatively to provide flexibility between the axle and the frame
as the vehicle negotiates a turn, the suspension will be roll rigid, and may over-stress
Roll rigid suspensions are used to stabilize high center of gravity
vehicles such as highway trailers. In these application, only enough roll compliance
is permitted to allow the axle suspension to negotiate uneven terrain without unduly
stressing the vehicle frame or axle. Typically, the roll angles of the axle frame
are limited to 2 to 3 degrees in roll rigid suspensions. That is, if all the load
were transferred to the tire or tires on one side of the vehicle and the tire or
tires on the other side of the vehicle are completely off the ground, the angle
of the axle relative to the frame reaches only about 2 to 3 degrees for a typical
roll rigid suspension.
Conversely, roll flexible suspensions are used on low height vehicles
and multi-axle vehicles which are stabilized with other suspensions. In these situations,
the flexible suspensions operate to merely increase the load carrying capacity of
the truck. In these application, tractive effort is paramount as a flexible suspension
allows the tires to remain in contact with the ground. The tires must remain in
contact to assure that the increased carrying capacity of the vehicle is evenly
transmitted through the frame to the ground without inducing undue stress to the
vehicle frame structure. Regardless of whether a roll rigid or roll flexible suspension
is utilized, the suspension must be roll stable and provide the proper roll and
lateral control needed to assure that the total vehicle is stable.
Traditionally, truck and trailer suspensions employ a resilient axle
to beam connection, or alternatively the suspension includes a flexible, or spring
beam in order to successfully take up vertical forces experienced during the vehicle
operation. Alternatively, U.S. Patent No. 4,166,640 provides a tri-functional resilient
pivotal connection between the beam and the hanger bracket to provide a greater
degree of deflection in response to centrifugal and acceleration forces and a lesser
degree of radial deflection in response to forces acting along the axial length
of the beam. The '640 reference thus provides a rigid beam in connection with a
rigid axle to beam connection with the resilient bushing attaching the beam to the
frame responding to vertical forces acting on the axle to create a roll stable suspension.
As bushings, and consequently mounting plates and mounting pins are
not required for rigid axle to beam connections, suspension systems with rigid axle
to beam connections may be manufactured substantially lighter than suspension systems
requiring resilient axle to beam connections. Additionally, rigid beams are less
expensive to manufacture than spring beams and thus rigid beam suspensions are less
expensive than spring beam suspensions. A suspension that incorporates both of these
characteristics is thus both lightweight and inexpensive.
U.S. Patent No. 5,037,126 employs the basic concept of a tri-functional
bushing shown in the '640 patent, and provides a rigid axle to beam connection.
Patent No. 5,366,237 discloses a rigid axle to beam connection in
combination with a rigid beam and tri-functional bushing. The '237 reference was
developed in order to prevent the axle from stressing to an out-of-round cross-sectional
configuration as a result of vertical forces imparted to the axle through centrifugal
and acceleration forces as well as through diagonal axle walk. While the '237 reference
is presumably adequate for the purpose for which it was intended in that it provides
a rigid axle to beam connection, the weight of the suspension may still be reduced,
and the axle to beam connection disclosed therein is somewhat difficult to assemble.
Specifically, the axle must be slid into the orifice formed in each of the beams,
substantially increasing production time, and consequently production costs.
While the use of a tri-functional bushing is presumably adequate for
the purpose for which it is intended in that it eliminates the need to use expensive
spring steel associated with spring beam suspensions, as well as reduces the weight
associated with resilient axle to beam connections, tri-functional bushings are
relatively expensive to manufacture, and subject to cyclic failure.
FR-A-2 587 649 which shows the features of the preamble of claim 1,
discloses a beam for use in a vehicle suspension system comprising laminated reinforcing
material extending between opposite ends of the beam. However the reinforcing material
does not circumferentially surround each of the beam ends.
WO-A-87/06540 discloses a vehicle suspension unit having reinforcing
material extending between opposite ends of the unit and defining top and bottom
walls of the latter. However the reinforcing material does not comprise laminated
layers and does not circumferentially surround the unit ends.
An additional problem associated with suspension systems having rigid
axle to beam connections is that the axle warranty is void if a weld is positioned
within 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) of the vertical axis on either the top or the bottom
of the axle. Welding in this area is forbidden by the axle manufacturer as these
areas receive the largest compression and tension forces.
The need thus exists for a roll stable suspension system which eliminates
the use of expensive spring steel as used in spring beam suspensions, provides a
rigid axle to beam connection, and eliminates the use of tri-functional bushings.
Additionally, the need exists for a suspension system which is lightweight, easy
to assemble, simple to manufacture, and which permits the axle to move to an out-of
round condition while simultaneously providing a rigid axle to beam connection.
By providing a material having a low modulus of elasticity adjacent the rigid axle
to beam connection such that as the axle flexes, the beam material adjacent the
axle flexes, without fracture, to permit the axle to move in response to forces
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
An aim of the invention is to provide a beam for use with a suspension
system which is of simple construction, which is effective and inexpensive and which
solves problems and satisfies needs existing in the art. It is also an aim of the
invention to provide vehicle suspension systems with such beams.
According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided
a beam for a suspension system and as claimed in the ensuing claim 1.
According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided
a suspension system as claimed in the ensuing claim 8.
Suitably the vehicle suspension system has a rigid axle to beam connection
and is roll stable, and resistant to lateral and longitudinal forces.
Convenienty the reinforcing material of the beams is manufactured
of laminated material having a modulus of elasticity significantly lower than that
of the axle of the suspension system, whereby the axle deforms in response to input
forces with the beam material adjacent the axle deforming without fracture and remaining
rigidly attached to the axle.
Suitably each beam of the vehicle suspension system is manufactured
to remain resistant to lateral forces, while remaining sufficiently flexible to
assure that the suspension remains roll stable. The flexibility of the laminate
beams may be manufactured to fit the needs associated with a particular suspension
Conveniently each beam is adhesively attached to the axle.
Suitably an air spring piston is integrally formed with each laminated
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The preferred embodiments of the invention, illustrative of the best
modes in which applicant has contemplated applying the principles, are set forth
in the following description and are shown in the drawings and are particularly
and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.
- FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a pair of vehicle suspension systems with
the tires and brake assemblies shown in dot-dash lines, and shown attached to a
- FIG. 2 is an enlarged side elevational view of one of the vehicle suspension
systems shown in FIG. 1 with portions cut away;
- FIG. 3 is a top plan view taken along line 3-3, FIG. 2, with portions cut away;
- FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of a second embodiment of the present invention,
with portions cut away;
- FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of a third embodiment of the present invention
with portions cut away;
- FIG. 6 is an enlarged top view taken along line 6-6, FIG. 5 with portion cut
- FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along line 7-7, FIG. 6;
- FIG. 8 is a sectional view similar to FIG. 7, with an alternative air spring
- FIG. 9 is a side elevational view of a fourth embodiment of the present invention,
with the tires and brake assembly shown in dot-dash lines, and shown attached to
- FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the beams and stabilizer bar of the suspension
system shown in FIG. 9;
- FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an alternative pair of beams and stabilizer
bar similar to FIG. 10; and
- FIG. 12 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 11, with a pair of laminate air
spring pistons formed on the stabilizer bar.
Similar numerals refer to similar parts throughout the drawings.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
The improved vehicle suspension system of the present invention is
indicated generally at 1, and is particularly shown in FIG. 1 mounted on a vehicle
2, such as a truck or trailer. Vehicle 2 includes a cargo box 3 supported by a pair
of frame rails 4 extending longitudinally beneath cargo box 3 and along the length
of vehicle 2. Suspension system 1 includes a pair of hanger brackets 5 welded to
a slider frame 6, which includes a pair of parallel and spaced-apart slide channels
7. Slide channels 7 are spaced apart a distance equal to the distance between frame
rails 4 and are mounted to frame rails 4 with a plurality of locking pins 8. Referring
to FIG. 1, a pair of identical suspension systems 1 are shown installed on vehicle
2, with only one being described in detail herein below.
Suspension system 1 includes a pair of spaced-apart trailing beams
15 (FIGS. 2-3). Inasmuch as trailing beams 15 are identical, only one will be described
in detail. The first end 16 of each trailing beam 15 is mounted to a respective
hanger bracket 5 at a pivot 17, and a second end 18 of each trailing beam 15 supports
an axle 19. A tire-wheel assembly 21 is mounted to each end of axle 19. A mounting
bracket 20 is mounted to second end 18 of trailing beam 15 with each mounting bracket
20 including a pair of lower flanges 22 and an air spring mounting plate 23. An
air spring 24 is interposed between air spring mounting plate 23 and slider frame
6 for supporting vehicle 2 and vertical loads associated therewith.
Pivot 17 includes a bushing sleeve 30 (FIGS. 2 and 3). A bushing 31
is interference fitted within bushing sleeve 30 and an inner sleeve 32 is mounted
within bushing 31. A pivot pin 14 passes through hanger bracket 5 and inner sleeve
32 to mount trailing beam 15 to hanger bracket 5.
In accordance with one of the main features of the present invention,
trailing beams 15 are formed with a plurality of layers of laminate material 33.
More specifically, a first layer of material is wrapped around bushing 30 and axle
19, with a predetermined distance extending between bushing 30 and axle 19. Successive
layers of mounting material are then laid on the first layer of laminate material
to retain bushing 30 and axle 19 against movement relative to laminate material
33. In the preferred embodiment, a plurality of layers of laminate material extend
circumferentially around bushing sleeve 30 and axle 19. The first layer of laminate
material 33 is adhesively secured to bushing sleeve 30 and axle 19 to retain the
axle against movement.
The plurality of layers of laminate material 33 not only extend around
both axle 19 and bushing sleeve 30, laminate material 33 also forms top wall 34
and bottom wall 35 of each trailing beam 15. Additionally, a number of layers of
laminate material 33 extend intermediate top wall 34 and bottom wall 35 to form
side walls 36.
The adhesive material used to secure laminate material 33 to axle
19 and bushing sleeve 30 should be an adhesive material having a modulus of elasticity
in the range of from 2.76 GPa to 3.45 GPa (0.4 x 106 to 0.5 x 106
pounds-force per square inch). Similarly, the plurality of layers of laminate material
33 should be manufactured of a material having a modulus of elasticity in the range
of from 20.68 GPa to 103.42 GPa (3.0 x 106 to 15 x 106 pounds-force
per square inch), such as fiberglass mesh material. However, the plurality of layers
of laminate material 33 may also take a variety of other configurations without
departing from the spirit of the present invention.
While trailing beams 15 may take a variety of sizes and configurations,
in the preferred embodiment, they are tapered outwardly from first end 16 toward
second end 18 to limit the lateral deflection of suspension system 1, and to increase
deflection resistance as a result of torque forces imparted to axle 19. Additionally,
inasmuch as the adhesive and laminate material 33 have a modulus of elasticity in
the range of from 2.76 GPa to 103.42 GPa (0.4 x 106 to 15 x 106
pounds-force per square inch), and the axle has a modulus of elasticity in the range
of from 193.05 GPa to 206.84 GPa (28 x 106 to 30 x 106 pounds
force per square inch), the axle will be permitted to move to an out-of-round condition,
and deflect relative to trailing beams 15 without causing the beam to fracture as
the material will permit the beam to remain firmly attached to the axle as the axle
responds to forces received from tire-wheel assemblies 21. As should also be appreciated
from a review of FIGS. 1-3, the thickness of trailing beam 15 adjacent axle 19 may
be increased to increase the beam's resistance to lateral deflection. Additionally,
inasmuch as laminate 33 is adhesively attached to axle 19 over a large surface area,
the force felt by the adhesive layer per unit surface area is relatively small when
compared to the overall force received by the axle from tire-wheel assemblies 21.
More particularly, forces received by axle 19 from tire-wheel assemblies 21 are
in the range of from 206.8 - 482.6 MPa (30,000-70,000 pounds-force per square inch).
However, inasmuch as trailing beams 15 are adhesively secured to axle 19 over a
large surface area, the force per square inch felt by the adhesive is in the range
of only from 10.3 - 13.8 MPa (1,500-2,000 pounds-force per square inch). The strength
of the axle-to-beam connection may be further increased by merely increasing the
surface area over which beams 15 are attached to axle 19.
In operation, beams 15 flex similar to conventional spring beam suspension
systems to assure that suspension system 1 is roll stable, permitting sufficient
flexure along the length of laminate beams 15 to compensate for centrifugal and
acceleration forces experienced during turn negotiation, and vertical forces experienced
during diagonal axle walk. Additionally, inasmuch as fiberglass material is extremely
resistant to longitudinal forces, laminate beams 15 are extremely resistant to longitudinal
forces experienced along the length of trailing beams 15. Additionally, suspension
system 1 is lightweight as a result of the rigid axle-to-beam connection, whereby
axle 19 is adhesively secured within laminate beams 15, and, additionally, as a
result of the use of lightweight fiberglass material to manufacture beams 15. Suspension
system 1 is also easy to assemble as trailing beams 15 are assembled around axle
19 and do not require the manufacturer to subsequently attach the axle to each trailing
beam 15. As is also apparent from a review of FIGS. 1-3, the thickness and configuration
of top wall 34, bottom wall 35 and side walls 36 may be varied to tailor the resulting
spring rate to the requirements of a particular vehicle 2. More particularly, if
additional layers of laminate material 3 are added to top wall 34, bottom wall 35
and side walls 36, the flex rate of beams 15 will substantially increase, thereby
creating a roll rigid suspension. Alternatively, if top wall 34, bottom wall 35
and side walls 36 are manufactured with fewer layers of laminate 33, suspension
system 1 will remain more flexible, and, thus, will be less roll rigid.
In accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention, a
suspension system is indicated generally at 40, and is shown particularly in FIG.
4. Suspension system 40 is identical to suspension system 1 in every respect, except
that it includes a plurality of laminate layers 41 which cross diagonally between
bushing sleeve 30 and axle 19. More specifically, one layer of material 42 extends
from adjacent the top of bushing sleeve 30 to the bottom of axle 19, while a number
of other layers 43 extend adjacent from the bottom of bushing sleeve 30 to adjacent
the top of axle 19. Layers 42 and 43 may also be increased and decreased in thickness
to create a more roll rigid or less roll rigid suspension system and to meet the
requirements of a particular vehicle 2.
A third embodiment of the present invention is indicated generally
at 45, and is shown particularly in FIGS. 5-8. Suspension system 45 is similar to
suspension systems 1 and 40 in that it includes a pair of trailing beams 47 adhesively
attached to a bushing sleeve 30 and an axle 19 and is formed with a top wall 34
and a bottom wall 35. However, each trailing beam 47 is provided with a cardboard
or plastic insert 46 (FIG. 7) positioned intermediate axle 19, bushing sleeve 30,
top wall 34 and bottom wall 35. Insert 46 may take a variety of sizes and configuration,
but is preferably complimentary-sized to the space defined longitudinally between
axle 19 and bushing sleeve 30, and vertically between top wall 34 and bottom wall
35. Insert 46 operates merely to offer rigidity to trailing beams 47 when they are
Top wall 34 of trailing beam 47 is integrally formed with an air spring
piston 48. Specifically, an insert 49 is positioned on top wall 34 and multiple
layers of laminate material 33 are positioned around insert 49 and trailing beam
47 to provide a trailing beam 47 with an integrally formed air spring piston 48.
Air spring 50 may then be secured directly to air spring piston 48, substantially
reducing the weight and cost associated with air spring utilization and construction.
Alternatively, and referring specifically to FIG. 8, air spring 48 may be formed
from a plurality of parallel layers of laminate material 52, which layers are then
enveloped by a plurality of layers of laminate material 33.
The fourth embodiment of the present invention is indicated generally
at 60, and is shown particularly in FIGS. 9-10 mounted on a vehicle 2, similar to
vehicle suspension system 1. A pair of hanger brackets 61 extend downwardly from
slide channel 7 of slide frame 6. Suspension system 60 includes a pair of parallel
and spaced-apart control arms 62 pivotally mounted to respective hanger brackets
61 at a corresponding pivot 63, as well a pair of torque arms 64 with one end of
each torque arm 64 mounted to a hanger bracket 61 at a pivot 65. The other end of
each torque arm 64 is mounted to an axle leg 66. Hanger bracket 61, control arm
62, torque arm 64 and axle leg 66 thus combine to form a parallelogram suspension
In accordance with one of the main features of the fourth embodiment
of the present invention, and referring specifically to FIG. 10, control arms 62
are each formed with a pivot assembly 67 on either end thereof and are formed around
a stabilizer bar 68. Control arms 62 are formed substantially identical to the formation
of trailing beams 15 of suspension system 1. A plurality of layers of laminate material
33 are positioned circumferentially around each pivot assembly 67 and stabilizer
bar 68. Additional layers of laminate material 33 are then positioned around stabilizer
bar 68, and pivot assembly 67, such that pivot assembly 67 and stabilizer bar 68
are positioned apart a predetermined distance. Again, inasmuch as the adhesive layer
used to secure laminate material 33 to stabilizer bar 68 has a relatively high modulus
of elasticity, the adhesive will flex in response to movement of stabilizer bar
68 without fracturing, thereby assuring that stabilizer bar 68 remains securely
and adhesively attached to each control arm 62. Additionally, as is also apparent
from a review of FIGS. 9 and 10, the number of layers of laminate material 33 positioned
around stabilizer bar 68 may be varied to increase the flexibility of control arm
62 relative to stabilizer bar 68.
A fifth embodiment of the present invention is indicated generally
at 70, and is shown particularly in FIG. 11. The fifth embodiment of the present
invention is similar to the fourth embodiment of the present invention and includes
a pair of control arms 71, and a stabilizer bar 72. However, in the fifth embodiment
of the present invention, control arm 71 and stabilizer bar 72 are integrally formed
from layers of laminate material 33 such that the joint area 73 between each control
arm 71 and stabilizer bar 72 is formed with a circumferentially extending radius
74 to assure that the transition of force from control arm 71 to stabilizer bar
72 is smooth, and not subject to point load failure.
Referring to FIG. 12, suspension system 70 is shown with a plurality
of air spring pistons 75 integrally formed with stabilizer bar 72. Air spring pistons
75 operate substantially identical to air spring pistons 48 of the third embodiment
of the present invention, further reducing the weight and cost associated with the
utilization and manufacture of air springs in suspension systems.
Additionally with respect to suspension systems 1, 40, 45, 60 and
70, the trailing beams manufactured of laminate material may be manufactured to
provide a longitudinal rate of deflection, a vertical rate of deflection and a lateral
rate of deflection. In the majority of circumstances, each beam will be manufactured
in such a manner that the longitudinal rate of defection and the vertical rate of
deflection are significantly smaller than the vertical rate of deflection in order
to assure that suspension system 1 is roll stable and that the associated cross
member remains substantially perpendicular to the direction of travel of vehicle
In summary, suspension systems 1, 40, 45, 60 and 70 provide a rigid
axle-beam connection which is easy to assemble and which is lightweight by providing
a rigid connection between the axle or cross-member and the beams, and by providing
a flexible beam manufactured of a plurality of layers of laminate material 33. Additionally,
a beam may be manufactured to increase its resistance to lateral deflection by increasing
the width of the beam adjacent the axle. Additionally, by increasing beam width
adjacent the axle or cross member, a large surface area is utilized to adhesively
attach the beam to the cross-member. Such large surface area assures that the force-per-unit
area on the adhesive is relatively small when compared to the force experienced
by the axle or cross-member and beam. Still further, inasmuch as the beam is manufactured
of laminate material, it is extremely lightweight, and will include a flex rate
tailored to meet the specifications of a particular vehicle. The weight of the suspension
system of a number of the embodiments of the present invention are further reduced
by providing air spring pistons integrally formed with the beams and cross members.
Accordingly, the improved suspension system is simplified, provides
an effective, safe, inexpensive, and efficient device which achieves all the enumerated
objectives, provides for eliminating difficulties encountered with prior devices,
and solves problems and obtains new results in the art.
In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity,
clearness and understanding; but no unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom
beyond the requirement of the prior art, because such terms are used for descriptive
purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.
Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is by
way of example, and the scope of the invention is not limited to the exact details
shown or described.
Having now described the features, discoveries and principles of the
invention, the manner in which the improved suspension system is constructed and
used, the characteristics of the construction, and the advantageous, new and useful
results obtained; the new and useful structures, devices, elements, arrangements,
parts and combinations, are set forth in the appended claims.