Cross-reference to related patent application if any: None.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to seating covers, and more particularly to a suspension cover for a frame which results in a seat capable of supporting an occupant without the need for typical cushion, padding and support frame elements. In its most preferred embodiment, the present invention relates to a fabric cover for a seat frame which is easily and quickly placed over a frame and is subsequently heated to cause the cover to shrink to a taut condition capable of supporting a seat occupant.
2. Description of the Prior Art
A very large variety of seat covers and seating components are known for vehicle seats, home, school and office seating, theater and stadium seating, etc. Most seats include a seat frame of some type, and those seats which provide a cushion feel for the occupant further include padding, cushioning, springs, foam and/or a number of other components for comfort and/or aesthetic purposes. Other seating, such as patio furniture, may include only a frame, and strips of canvas, plastic or other materials stretched over the frame and secured in place by fasteners. Attempts have also been made to cover seating frames using a suspension fabric only, and in prior attempts the fabric cover closely resembles its final shape and is forced over the frame to its final position. This type of assembly is both time consuming and expensive.
A problem encountered with prior suspension covers is their tendency to sag after an occupant leaves the seat. This problem results from the conflicting goals of expediting assembly and having a fabric support for a frame which does not yield substantially when the weight of an occupant is placed thereon.
The complexity of seating systems used for vehicles is aptly demonstrated by reference to certain prior art documents. For example see U.S. Pat. No. 5,762,842 issued to Burchi on Jun. 8, 1998 for “Process for Seat Production”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,212, issued to Hoshino et al. in Oct. 13, 1998 for “Automotive Seat”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,213 issued to Severenski on Oct. 13, 1998 for “Trim Cover Attachment Features”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,826,939 issued to Beyer on Oct. 27, 1998 for “Method and Apparatus for Attaching a Trim Cover to a Seat Frame”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,879,051 issued to Cozanni on Mar. 9, 1999 for “Device and Method for Fixing a Seat Covering and the Seat Obtained”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,882,073 issued to Burchi et al. on Mar. 16, 1999 for “Foam Passenger Seat Having Trim Cover Attachment Means”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,887,452 issued to Smith et al. on Mar. 30, 1999 for “Knitted Cover”; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,902,434 issued to Parrish on May 11, 1999 for “Method of Bonding a Cover Material to a Foam Cushion.”
As is apparent from reviewing the above-referenced disclosures, many vehicle seat arrangements are complex, involve a number of components and are time consuming and difficult to assemble. A seat which could be assembled quickly, which would be readily adaptable to a wide variety of frame constructions and which could be prepared in a wide variety of color and graphic combinations would represent a significant advance in this art.
FEATURES AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
A primary feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric for seating.
Another feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric which is heat shrinkable and readily adaptable to a wide variety of seat frame configurations.
A further feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric for seating which reduces seat assembly time and cost.
A different feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric for seating which may be prepared from a variety of different textures and colors of yarns and/or fibers and which may be woven to display graphics on the “A” side of the fabric.
Yet another feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric for seating which may be woven from yarns and/or fibers selected to shrink at preselected temperatures or which may be selected to provide differing amounts of shrink to accommodate different end uses and different designs of seat frames.
Still a further feature of the present invention is to provide a suspension fabric for seating which is heat shrinkable in at least two dimensions.
How the above-mentioned and other features are accomplished individually, collectively, or in various subcombinations will be described in the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment, taken with the FIGURES. Generally, however, the features are accomplished by knitting a heat shrinkable yarn with another yarn, preferably either an air jet textured yarn or a false twist yarn into a double jersey construction. The resulting jersey is then cut and sewn into a suspension cover for a seating frame, which cover is easily placed over the frame in its “baggy” state (a term which will be used herein to denote a state in which the cover can be slipped over a seat frame without using substantial force, even if the cover is taut resulting from stretching the knit between frame components). The suspension fabric is then heated causing the heat shrinkable components thereof to contract, preferably in at least two directions, causing the fabric to tighten over the frame to a condition in which it can support an occupant. Other ways in which the features of the invention are accomplished will appear to those skilled in the textile field and/or in the field of designing covers for seat frames, after they have read this specification. Such other ways are deemed to fall within the scope of the present invention if they fall within the scope of the claims which follow.
Before beginning the detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention, several general comments can be made about the applicability and the scope thereof. First, the invention will be illustrated in connection with the seat back covering for a vehicle seat, but the invention has much broader applicability for use in a wide variety of seating for home, office, school, patio, airport, stadium, and theater seating, to name a few. The only requirements are that the seat include a frame and that a heat shrinkable suspension fabric is used therewith.