Patent application title: Locking damper positioner
Mark Andrew Gribble (Oregon City, OR, US)
IPC8 Class: AF24F1310FI
Class name: Ventilation having inlet airway with adjustable valve (e.g., damper, etc.)
Publication date: 2012-03-22
Patent application number: 20120071083
A damper positioner includes a lead screw to move the damper blade and a
screw lock selectively engageable with the screw to permit rotation of
the screw but prevent unintended rotation.
1. An apparatus for adjusting a blade of a damper, said blade affixed to
an axle rotatably mounted in a frame of said damper, said apparatus
comprising: (a) a lever affixed to said axle proximate a first end of
said lever; (b) an elongate screw comprising a head portion, said screw
in threaded engagement with a first anchor affixed to said lever remote
from said first end, said screw rotatable but axially restrained in a
second anchor affixed to said frame, rotation of said screw rotating said
axle; and (c) a screw lock selectively engageable with said screw to
selectively restrain rotation of said screw.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said screw lock comprises a body defining a socket having a shape complementary to a shape of said head portion and axially movable relative to said screw to selectively engage said head portion in said socket, said body rotationally restrained.
3. The apparatus of claim 2 further comprising a resilient member urging axial movement of said body and engagement of said socket with said head portion of said screw.
4. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said head portion includes a facet and said socket includes a complementary facet.
5. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said head includes a hexagonal portion and said socket defines a hexagon.
6. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said body is rotationally restrained by a pin affixed to said body and slidably engaging said second anchor.
7. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said body includes a peripheral facet slidably engaged with one of said frame and said second anchor.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said head portion of said screw comprises: (a) a first portion engageable by a tool for rotating said screw; and (b) a conical second portion tapering to an end of said head portion to guide said tool into engagement with said first portion.
9. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein said head portion includes a third portion separating said first portion and said conical second portion, said third portion facilitating manual rotation of said screw.
10. An apparatus for selectively constraining rotation of a screw in an anchor, said screw including a head, said apparatus comprising: (a) a body defining a socket having a shape complementary to a portion of said head of said screw, said body axially slidable on said screw but rotationally restrained by said anchor; and (b) a resilient member urging said body toward said head to engage said head in said socket, engagement of said head and said socket restraining rotation of said screw relative to said body.
11. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said head portion includes a facet and said socket includes a complementary facet.
12. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said head includes a hexagonal portion and said socket defines a hexagon.
13. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said body is rotationally restrained by a pin affixed to said body and slidably engaging said anchor.
14. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said body includes a peripheral facet slidably engaged with said anchor.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 Not applicable.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to a damper for controlling the flow of fluid in a duct and, more specifically, to an apparatus for controlling the position of the blade of a damper.
 A damper is a valve or plate that stops or regulates the flow of fluid inside a duct, chimney, air handler, or other fluid handling equipment. The fluid is commonly a gas, such as air, but may be a liquid or vapor and the duct may be under positive or negative pressure. Referring to FIG. 1, a common type of fluid control damper 20 is a butterfly damper comprising a frame 22 and one or more blades 24 each supported by an axle 26 which is journaled for rotation in the opposing walls of the frame.
 The frame 22 typically comprises a length of duct similar in cross-section to the ducting 28 in which the damper is to be installed. The frame 22 may be round or rectangular and may have one or two flanges 30 for connecting the damper to the contiguous sections of ducting 28. On the other hand, particularly in lower pressure systems, the cross-section of one end of the frame may be expanded and the cross-section of other end of the frame may be reduced to enable the ends of the frame to, respectively, slip over and into the ends of the contiguous sections of ductwork.
 The substantially planar blade 24 of the damper is rotatable to a position normal to the flow of fluid, substantially blocking flow of fluid in the duct. Dampers may include seals that engage the blade when it is oriented normal to the fluid flow to minimize the flow of fluid between the periphery of the blade and the interior surface 32 of the frame. When the blade is rotated to an orientation substantially parallel to the flow of fluid, the planar blade produces a minimal pressure drop and the flow through the damper is substantially unrestricted. Blade orientations between the two extreme orientations produce pressure drops of varying magnitude and restrict flow to varying degrees.
 The position of the blades(s) of a damper may be mechanically or manually controlled. Electric motors, hydraulic cylinders and pneumatic cylinders are commonly used to position the blades of dampers, particularly in automated systems. However, many dampers are used in applications where the damper is only rarely adjusted after the initial balancing of the system's flows. In these applications, mechanical operation of the damper may not be economically justifiable and dampers are commonly equipped for manual operation. A manually operated butterfly damper typically includes a handle 34 affixed to the axle that rotatably supports the blade 24. By moving the handle a user can rotate the blade to adjust the fluid flow through the damper. While manual adjustment of the damper is typically less expensive than mechanical actuation, dampers are often located in areas with limited or difficult manual access to the damper's handle.
 Typically, a damper is adjusted to balance the flows in the ductwork or to limit the flow in a particular duct. Once the adjustment is completed, the position of the damper's blade is secured against further movement. Manual adjustment handles commonly utilize a friction lock, such as a screw 36 and wing nut 38 that can be tightened to increase the friction between the handle 34 and the handle's mounting 40 on the frame. Friction locks provide infinite adjustment of the blade's position but the position of the blade can be altered if the handle is bumped by a person or equipment. Referring to FIG. 2, manually operated dampers are sometimes equipped with sector locks comprising a plurality of holes 52 in the handle 50 or the handle's mounting. A screw or the shackle of a lock inserted thorough a hole in the mounting and one of the holes in the handle locks the handle and the blade in position. The position of the sector locked blade is substantially secure against accidental movement but the adjustment is limited to a few positions which may not provide sufficiently fine adjustment of the blade's position for a particular application.
 Maintaining control of the damper's blade during adjustment is also important, particularly in industrial applications. Typically, a damper is adjusted while fluid is flowing in the ductwork. When either a friction lock or a sector lock of a manually operated damper is released, the user must maintain a grip on the handle to prevent movement of the blade often while trying to measure the pressure drop across the damper. If the user releases or inadvertently moves the handle, the flow of fluid in the damper and in other parts of the system can change significantly. A change in the flow rate in the ductwork can disrupt manufacturing processes, damage products and, in some cases, present a safety hazard.
 What is desired, therefore, is an apparatus for controlling the position of the blade of a damper which is economical to manufacture, suitable for retrofitting an existing damper or for use with a new damper, enables manual adjustment in areas with limited access, provides fine levels of adjustment, secures the blade in the adjusted position and prevents uncontrolled movement of the blade during adjustment.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a damper arranged for manual adjustment.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a damper handle with sector locking.
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a butterfly damper with a screw actuated adjustment.
 FIG. 4 is an elevation view of the damper of FIG. 3 with the blade in the closed position.
 FIG. 5 is an elevation view of the damper of FIG. 3 with the blade in the open position.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the head of the lead screw of FIG. 3 and the screw lock in the locked position.
 FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the head of the lead screw of FIG. 3 and the screw lock in the unlocked position.
 FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a second example of a damper positioner and lead screw lock.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 A damper is a valve enabling regulation of the flow of fluid inside a duct, chimney, air handler, or other fluid handling equipment. The fluid is commonly a gas, such as air, but may be a liquid or vapor. Referring in detail to the drawings where similar parts are identified by like reference numerals, and, more particularly to FIG. 3, an exemplary damper 60 comprises a frame 22 including a central aperture 23 that is typically similar in cross-section to the ducting in which the damper will be installed. The frame of the exemplary damper 60 is round but dampers are also commonly rectangular or square in cross-section. The exemplary damper 60 has a flange 30 at either end of the frame for connecting the damper to contiguous portions of the ductwork. However, dampers may have a flange at only one end of the frame and some dampers do not have a flange for connecting to adjacent ducting. The cross-section of the aperture of the damper may be expanded or reduced near the ends of the frame to enable the ends of the contiguous ducting to, respectively, slip into or over the ends of the damper's frame.
 The exemplary damper 60 is a butterfly valve or damper and includes a rotatable blade 24 supported by an axle 26 which is journaled for rotation in the wall on opposing sides of the frame. The axle may be supported in the frame by bearings or bushings (not shown) and the frame may be equipped with seals (not shown) to prevent leakage where the axle passes through the wall of the frame. To control the flow of fluid in the duct, the blade can be rotated between a position where the plane of the blade is normal to the flow of fluid and a position where the plane of the blade parallel to the fluid flow. When the blade is oriented normal to the fluid flow, the flow of fluid is blocked or, at least, restricted to leakage between the periphery of the blade and the internal surface(s) 32 of the frame. Some dampers also include seals on the inner surface 32 of the frame to seal any gap between the periphery of the blade and the periphery of the frame's aperture. When the blade is oriented parallel to the flow of fluid, the planar blade produces a minimal pressure drop and the flow through the damper is maximized. Blade orientations between the two extreme orientations produce varying magnitudes of pressure drop and flow restriction.
 Referring also to FIGS. 3 and 4, the position of the blade 24 of the exemplary damper is manually adjustable. The blade 24 of the damper is affixed to the axle 26 which is journaled in the wall of the frame on opposite sides of the aperture 23. The axle 26 is affixed to a lever 62 proximate a first end of the lever. Preferably, the orientation of the lever parallels the plane of the blade 24 providing a visual reference of the orientation of the blade in the frame. The position of the lever and, therefore, the orientation of the blade is controlled and adjusted by a lead screw 64 which is connected to the lever 62 proximate the second end of the lever. The lead screw 64 is in threaded engagement with an anchor 66 that is pivotally attached 68 to the lever 62 enabling the angle of screw, relative to the lever, to change as the lever moves the damper between the open position and the closed position.
 The lead screw is rotatably journaled in a second anchor 70 proximate the second end of the lead screw. The second anchor is pivotally attached 72 to a mounting plate 74 which is, in turn, secured to the exterior of the frame 22 by screws 76. The lead screw is rotatable in the anchor but is restrained against translation by one or more snap rings 71, collars and/or shoulders bearing on the anchor. As illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, by rotating the lead screw 64, a user can manually adjust the blade's position between the fully closed position 78 and the fully open 80 position. Since the screw is always engaged with the lever and the frame, the movement of the blade is under control throughout the adjustment of the blade's position. In addition, the threads of the lead screw are preferably self-locking to resist rotation of the screw when the user is not actively applying torque to the screw.
 Referring also to FIGS. 6 and 7, the lead screw 64 includes a head 82 located at an end of the screw. The head preferably includes a non-circular portion 84, a tapered or conical portion 86 and a manually graspable portion 88. The graspable portion 88 enables a user to grip and rotate the lead screw with the fingers and, preferably, includes a knurled surface or other surface treatment to improve the user's grip. Alternatively, the graspable portion of the head may include provisions for coupling to a motor or other actuator for remote adjustment of the damper. The non-circular portion 84 includes one or more lobes or facets 85 enabling engagement and rotation with a tool having a complementary interface. For example, a non-circular portion having a hexagonal cross-section, as illustrated in FIG. 7, enables engagement and rotation with a socket wrench 86. Referring also to FIG. 8, the non-circular portion of the lead screw head 100 may have a less common cross-section, such as an ellipse 104, requiring a tool with a special shape to engage limiting access to the positioner.
 Dampers are commonly located in areas where there is limited access making engagement with a tool difficult. The tapered portion 84 of the head is preferably frustoconical and aids in guiding the tool into engagement with the non-circular portion of the head.
 The damper positioner includes a lead screw lock 90 that shields the head 82 of the screw from inadvertent contact and locks the screw against unintentional rotation. The lead screw lock comprises a body 92, 106 including portions defining a socket 94, 108. The socket has a cross-section complementary to the cross-section of the non-circular portion of the head and a depth enabling engagement of the socket with a first length 95A of the non-circular portion 84 of the head of the lead screw. Engagement of the facets 85 or lobes 105 of the lead screw head by the surfaces of the complementarily shaped socket in the body prevents independent rotation of the lead screw and the body 92, 102 of the screw lock.
 Preferably, a second length 95B of the non-circular portion of the head protrudes beyond the body 92 enabling a tool to engage the non-circular portion of the head while the body is engaged with head.
 A spring 96 or other resilient member urges the body 92 which is slidable on the lead screw toward the head end of the screw, urging engagement of the socket with the non-circular portion of the head of the lead screw. Interaction of the complementary shapes of the non-circular portion of the screw's head and the socket prevents the screw from rotating independent of the socket. When a user wishes to rotate the lead screw, the body 92 of the screw lock is displaced toward the anchor, for example by the tool engaging the head of the screw, until the non-circular portion of the head is disengaged from the socket in the body of the screw lock enabling rotation of the head of the screw and adjustment of the damper's blade.
 The body 92 of the screw lock 90 is prevented from rotating relative to the anchor and, therefore, the frame of the damper. Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7 the body 92 of screw lock may be secured against rotation relative to the anchor and the frame by one or more pins 98 having one end portion affixed to the body 92 and a portion slidably fitted in an aperture 99 in the anchor. On the other hand, as illustrated in FIG. 8, one or more facets 102 or lobes on the periphery of the body 106 slidably engaging the anchor 70 or the mounting plate will secure the body against rotation relative to the anchor and permit disengagement of the body of the lock and the non-circular portion of the screw head. Interaction of the complementary shapes of the non-circular portion of the screw's head and the socket prevents the screw from rotating independent of the socket which is restrained against rotation relative to the frame to avoid unintended movement of the damper blade from inadvertent contact with the screw.
 The detailed description, above, sets forth numerous specific details to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well known methods, procedures, components, and circuitry have not been described in detail to avoid obscuring the present invention.
 All the references cited herein are incorporated by reference.
 The terms and expressions that have been employed in the foregoing specification are used as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention, in the use of such terms and expressions, of excluding equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, it being recognized that the scope of the invention is defined and limited only by the claims that follow.
Patent applications in class With adjustable valve (e.g., damper, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses With adjustable valve (e.g., damper, etc.)