|Publication number||US20060087160 A1|
|Application number||US 10/973,947|
|Publication date||Apr 27, 2006|
|Filing date||Oct 25, 2004|
|Priority date||Oct 25, 2004|
|Publication number||10973947, 973947, US 2006/0087160 A1, US 2006/087160 A1, US 20060087160 A1, US 20060087160A1, US 2006087160 A1, US 2006087160A1, US-A1-20060087160, US-A1-2006087160, US2006/0087160A1, US2006/087160A1, US20060087160 A1, US20060087160A1, US2006087160 A1, US2006087160A1|
|Inventors||Hanh Dong, John Lofy, David Marquette|
|Original Assignee||Hanh Dong, John Lofy, David Marquette|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (24), Referenced by (39), Classifications (9), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to climate control. More specifically, this invention relates to climate control of a cushion.
2. Description of the Related Art
Temperature modified air for environmental control of living or working space is typically provided to relatively extensive areas, such as entire buildings, selected offices, or suites of rooms within a building. In the case of vehicles, such as automobiles, the entire vehicle is typically cooled or heated as a unit. There are many situations, however, in which more selective or restrictive air temperature modification is desirable. For example, it is often desirable to provide an individualized climate control for an occupant seat so that substantially instantaneous heating or cooling can be achieved. For example, an automotive vehicle exposed to the summer weather, where the vehicle has been parked in an unshaded area for a long period of time, can cause the vehicle seat to be very hot and uncomfortable for the occupant for some time after entering and using the vehicle, even with normal air conditioning. Furthermore, even with normal air-conditioning, on a hot day, the seat occupant's back and other pressure points may remain sweaty while seated. In the winter time, it is highly desirable to have the ability to quickly warm the seat of the occupant to facilitate the occupant's comfort, especially where the normal vehicle heater is unlikely to warm the vehicle's interior as quickly.
For such reasons, there have long been various types of individualized climate control systems for vehicle seats. Such climate control systems typically include a distribution system comprising a combination of channels and passages formed in the cushion of the seat. Climate conditioned air is supplied to these channels and passages by a climate control device. The climate conditioned air flows through the channels and passages to cool or heat the space adjacent the surface of the vehicle seat.
There are, however, problems that have been experienced with existing climate control systems for seats. For example, some climate control systems are not easily integratable into existing seat construction methods. Such systems require a significantly greater number of parts as compared to existing automotive seats, and often require complex mechanical parts. In the past, this has resulted in increased costs for individualized occupant cooling in automobiles. The current techniques are also problematic because they may limit the ability for vehicle designers to provide modern seating embodiments and stylistic designs. For example, many modern seats include an adjustable lumbar support device. Typically, such a device is disposed within a backrest of a seat and is configured to incrementally adjust the contour of the backrest to provide variable lumbar support. The location and movement of the backrest provides significant engineering obstacles for the climate control system. In response, current climate control systems simply avoid or duct around the lumbar support device and the portions of the backrest that move. This results in a more complicated design and increased costs.
Another problem that has been experienced with existing climate control systems for seats involves the connection between the channels and passages formed in the cushion of the seat and the climate control device which supplies conditioned air to these channels and passages. Specifically, the connection may create a region of rigidity in the seat cushion degrading the feel and comfort of the seat.
Thus there is a need for an improved climate control apparatus for a climate control system for seats.
Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention comprises a conduit for placing a climate control device in fluid communication with a fluid passage in a cushion (e.g., a cushion of an automotive seat). The conduit comprises a flexible body, a first port and a second port. The first port is at a first end of the body and is configured to couple with an outlet port of the climate control device. The second port is at a second end of the body. The second port is configured to couple with a rear side of the cushion.
Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly. The assembly includes a seat cushion having an outer surface comprising a front side for supporting an occupant in a sitting position and a rear side. The rear side and the front side generally face in opposite directions. A base member is positioned on the rear side of the seat cushion. The assembly also includes an adjustable support device capable of moving a portion of the seat cushion between at least a first position in which the first portion of the seat cushion is located a first distance from the base member and a second position in which the portion of the seat cushion is located a second distance from the base member. The second distance is greater than the first distance. A passage extends through the seat cushion. The passage communicates with an opening on the rear side of the portion of the seat cushion. A conduit extends from the passage and through at least a portion of the adjustable support device.
Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a seat cushion having a front side, a rear side and an outer surface comprising a support surface for supporting an occupant in a sitting position. The support surface is located generally on the front side of the seat cushion. The seat assembly includes an adjustable support device capable of moving a lumbar portion the cushion between at least a first position, in which the lumbar portion of the support surface protrudes a first distance towards the occupant, and a second position, in which the lumbar portion protrudes a second distance towards the occupant. The second distance is greater than the first distance. A fluid system is provided for delivering or expelling air. The assembly further comprises an air passage that extends through at least part of the lumbar portion of the cushion. A flexible conduit is in fluid communication with the air passage and has a first end coupled to the lumbar portion and a second end coupled to a component of the fluid system that is substantially stationary with respect to the lumbar portion of the cushion.
Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a seat cushion having an outer surface comprising a front side for supporting an occupant in a sitting position and a rear side wherein the rear side and the front side generally face opposite directions. A passage extends through the seat cushion and communicates with an opening on the rear side of the cushion. A fluid system delivers or expels air to or from the passage. The assembly also includes means for providing a flexible fluid connection between the fluid system and the first passage.
In accordance with an additional aspect of the present invention, a climate controlled cushion is provided that comprises an outer surface. The outer surface has a first side for supporting at least a portion of an occupant and a second side. The second side and the first side generally face in opposite directions. A passage extends through at least part of the cushion and communicates with an opening on the second side of the seat cushion. A fluid system either delivers or expelling air to the passage via a conduit that couples the fluid system with the passage. The conduit is expandable in length.
A further aspect of the present invention involves a method of assembling a climate controlled seat assembly. The method involves providing a cushion having an opening accessible from at least one side of the cushion with the cushion being attached to a frame. A flexible conduit is attached to the cushion so as to place the conduit in fluidic communication with the opening. The method further involves coupling the conduit to a fluid flow generation device and attaching the fluid flow generation device to the frame.
Further features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of preferred embodiments which follow, when considered together with the attached drawings and claims.
In the illustrated embodiment, the seat assembly 30 is similar to a standard automotive seat. However, it should be appreciated that certain features and aspects of the seat assembly 30 described herein may also be used in a variety of other applications and environments. For example, certain features and aspects of the seat assembly 30 may be adapted for use in other vehicles, such as, for example, an airplane, a boat, or the like. Further, certain features and aspects of the seat assembly 30 may also be adapted for use in stationary environments, such as, for example, a chair, a sofa, a theater seat, a mattress, and an office seat that is used in a place of business and/or residence.
With continued reference to
In a similar manner, the seat portion 32 has a front side 64, a rear side 66, a top side 68 and a bottom side 70. The seat portion 32 also includes a pair of sides 69, 71, which extending from the rear side 66 and the front side 64 for providing lateral support to the occupant of the seat assembly 30. In one embodiment, the seat assembly 30 is secured to a vehicle by attaching the bottom side 70 of the seat portion 32 to the floor of a vehicle.
As shown in
As mentioned above, the cushion 72 may be formed from a typical automotive cushion material, such as, for example, an open or closed cell form. In one embodiment, the cushion 72 is made of foam that is pre-molded to form the passage 78 and/or the channels 80. In another embodiment, the passage 78 and/or the channels 80 may be formed by cutting foam out of the seat cushion 72.
With reference back to
With continued reference to
As will be explained in more detail below, in one embodiment, air from the climate control apparatus 38 is delivered to the distribution passages 82 through the inlet passage 78. The air then flows through the openings 84 and into the distribution layer 86. The air is then directed through the covering 74 to a space adjacent to the front surface 48 of the backrest 34. In another embodiment, the climate control apparatus 38 is used to remove air, which is adjacent to the front surface 48 of the backrest 34. In such an embodiment, the air is withdrawn through the covering 74 and into the distribution layer 86. The air is then withdrawn through the openings 84, into the distribution passages 82 and through the inlet passage 78.
Given the goal of distributing air through the cushion 72 and along the covering 74, those of skill in the art will recognize that the distribution system may be modified in several different manners. For example, the shape and/or number of channels may be modified. In other embodiments, the scrim 81 and/or distribution may be combined and/or replaced with other components configured for similar functions. In yet another embodiment, a separate insert may be positioned within the channels 80 for distributing the air. See e.g., co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/853,779, filed May 25, 2004, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.
With reference now to
It should be appreciated that the illustrated adjustable lumbar support device 36 represents only one exemplary embodiment. Any of a variety of other adjustable lumbar support devices may be used in the seat assembly 30 to adjust the contour of the lumbar region 62 of the seat assembly 30. Such devices may include, but are not limited to, other mechanical mechanisms and/or inflation devices. (See e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,695,402, 5,505,520, and 5,088,790, which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.)
The climate control apparatus 38 provides a fluid flow to either warm or cool the front side 54 of the backrest 34. The climate control apparatus preferably provides conditioned air that is either heated or cooled relative to the temperature of the backrest front side 54, and either can be disposed as part of the seat assembly or can be disposed apart from the seat assembly (e.g., be integrated with a vehicle's air heating and cooling system). The climate control apparatus 38 of the illustrated embodiment will now be described in detail with continued reference to
The air from the fluid system 94 is delivered to the fluid distribution system 76 described above through a conduit 96, which is shown in detail in
As will be explained in more detail below, the inlet port 104 is preferably coupled to a portion of the climate control apparatus 38 that is substantially stationary. In contrast, the outlet port 106 is preferably coupled to a portion of the climate control apparatus 38, which is not stationary and moves with respect to the substantially stationary portion of the climate control apparatus 38. As such, in the one embodiment, the outlet port 106 is coupled to the foam inlet passage 78 and is capable of moving relative to the inlet port 104. To facilitate such movement, at least a portion of the body 98 is flexible and/or capable of articulated movement. In addition, it is also advantageous that the length of the body 98 may be lengthened or shortened. Accordingly, in the illustrated embodiment, the body 98 is formed, at least in part, from a flexible material such as, for example, rubber, other elastomers, flexible thermoplastics, and the like. During movement, it is advantageous that the cross-sectional area of the passage 108 not be significantly reduced (e.g., by crimping or buckling). Accordingly, in the illustrated embodiment, the body 98 has a bellow-type configuration comprising a plurality of folds 116. In this manner, as the conduit 96 bends the inner radius may shorten while the outer radius lengthens to substantially preserve the cross-sectional area of the fluid passage 108. In addition, the length of the conduit 96 may be increased or decreased as the bellows expand or contract without significantly compromising the fluid passage 108.
Of course, those of skill in the art will recognize other arrangements for facilitating one or more of the degrees of movement described above. Such arrangements include, but are not limited, to various arrangements of telescoping members, braided conduits, flexible joints and the like.
With continued reference to
With reference now to
It should also be appreciated that in modified embodiments, the outlet end 102 of the conduit 96 may extend partially into or through the inlet passage 78. In other embodiments, one or more intermediate member(s) may be provided between the rear side 56 of the backrest 34 and the outlet end 102 of the conduit 96.
The inlet end 100 of the conduit 96 preferably is coupled to a substantially stationary component of the fluid system 94. In the illustrated embodiment, which is best seen in
As best seen in
It should be appreciated that in modified embodiments, the inlet end 100 of the conduit 96 may be coupled to a different substantially stationary component of the climate control apparatus 38. For example, in one embodiment, the inlet end 100 maybe be coupled to an intermediate conduit disposed between the fluid system 94 and the conduit 96. In such an embodiment, the outlet of the intermediate conduit may be substantially stationary with respect to the outlet end 102 of the conduit 96.
The illustrated embodiment has several advantages. For example, because of the relative movement between the inlet and outlet ends 100, 102 of the conduit 96, the inlet passage 78 may be positioned in the adjustable lumbar region 62 of the backrest 34. That is, the inlet passage 78 may be located in a portion of the cushion 72 that moves in response to the adjustable lumbar support device 36. In the prior art, the inlet passage 78 has been placed above the lumbar region 62 because movement of the lumbar region 62 would often compromise the connections between the climate control apparatus 38 and the distribution system 76 if the connection were placed in this movable region. The illustrated embodiment addresses these design concerns by providing a conduit 96 that permits relative movement between its ends. As schematically illustrated in
Certain features and aspect of the above-described embodiments are also advantageous in arrangements in which the seat assembly 30 does not include an adjustable lumbar support device or when the inlet passage 78 is positioned outside (e.g., above) the lumbar region 62. For example, as mentioned above, existing climate control systems have used a rigid connection between the channels and passages formed in the cushion of the seat and the climate control device. The rigid connection creates a region of rigidity in the seat cushion, thereby degrading the feel and comfort of the seat. In contrast, the above described embodiments provide a flexible connection between the fluid distribution system 76 and the fluid system 94. This results in a more comfortable seat assembly 30.
In operation, fluid in the form of air can be delivered from the fluid system 94 through the conduit 96 and into the inlet passage 78 and the distribution system 76. As described above, the air flows through the passages 82, into the openings 84 and then along the distribution layer 86 and through the covering 74. In this manner, conditioned air can be provided to the front surface 48 of the backrest 34.
In a modified embodiment, air from within the passenger compartment of the automobile can be drawn through the covering 74, into the distribution layer 86 and through the openings 84. The air then can flow through the distribution passages 82, into the inlet passage 78 and then into the conduit 96. In this manner, the climate control apparatus 38 can provide suction so that air near the surface of the seat assembly 30 is removed.
While the flexible conduit 96 has been shown and described as interconnecting a ventilation system within a backrest cushion to a climate control apparatus, which is fixed to the backrest frame, the flexible conduit 96 can be used in other application as well. For example, the flexible conduit can be used to interconnect a climate control apparatus (e.g., a thermal-electric device or an Freon-based air conditioning unit), which is fixed to a vehicle, to a lower side of the seat assembly. In accordance with a more detailed example, the climate control apparatus can be fixed to the vehicle underneath the seat assembly. The flexible conduit then can interconnect the climate control apparatus to an inlet of the seat ventilation system. The inlet can be formed either on the bottom or sides of the seat portion or the backrest portion of the seat assembly. The flexible conduit would allow movement of the seat relative to the stationary portion of the climate control apparatus, thereby permitting the seat to be slid, raised, tilted, or inclined without crimping or buckling the fluid passage between the climate control apparatus and the seat assembly.
To assist in the description of the disclosed embodiments, words such as upward, upper, downward, lower, vertical, horizontal, upstream, and downstream have and used above to describe the accompanying figures. It will be appreciated, however, that the illustrated embodiments can be located and oriented in a variety of desired positions.
Although the foregoing description of the preferred embodiments has shown, described, and pointed out certain novel features, it will be understood that various omissions, substitutions, and changes in the form of the detail of the apparatus as illustrated, as well as the uses thereof, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of this disclosure. Consequently, the scope of the present invention should not be limited by the foregoing discussion, which is intended to illustrate rather than limit the scope of the invention.
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|Cooperative Classification||B60N2/66, B60N2/5692, B60N2/5635, A47C7/72, A47C7/74|
|European Classification||A47C7/74, A47C7/72|
|May 16, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AMERIGON, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:DONG, HANH;LOFY, JOHN;MARQUETTE, DAVID;REEL/FRAME:016569/0717;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050421 TO 20050422