Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20060273646 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/435,325
Publication dateDec 7, 2006
Filing dateMay 16, 2006
Priority dateMay 16, 2005
Also published asWO2006124835A1
Publication number11435325, 435325, US 2006/0273646 A1, US 2006/273646 A1, US 20060273646 A1, US 20060273646A1, US 2006273646 A1, US 2006273646A1, US-A1-20060273646, US-A1-2006273646, US2006/0273646A1, US2006/273646A1, US20060273646 A1, US20060273646A1, US2006273646 A1, US2006273646A1
InventorsBrian Comiskey, John Lofy
Original AssigneeBrian Comiskey, John Lofy
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Ventilated headrest
US 20060273646 A1
Abstract
A climate controlled seat assembly includes a seat having a seat cushion, a backrest having a backrest cushion, and a headrest having a headrest cushion. The headrest is moveably mounted to the backrest. The headrest cushion includes at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough. A thermoelectric device is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway. A fluid transfer device that is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway is coupled to the headrest such the thermal module moves with the headrest as it is moved with respect to the backrest.
Images(8)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(24)
1. A climate controlled seat assembly comprising:
a seat comprising a seat cushion;
a backrest comprising a backrest cushion;
a headrest comprising a headrest cushion, the headrest moveably mounted to the backrest, the headrest cushion comprising at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough;
a thermoelectric device in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway; and
a fluid transfer device that is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway and is coupled to the headrest such the thermal module moves with the headrest as it is moved with respect to the backrest.
2. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the thermal module is at least partially positioned within the headrest cushion.
3. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the thermoelectric device comprises a Peltier circuit.
4. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the thermal module includes a radial fan.
5. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the headrest includes at least one opening configured to transmit air from the at least one fluid passageway to a front surface of the headrest.
6. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, further comprising a backrest fluid distribution system including at least one passage extending at least partially within the backrest cushion.
7. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 6, further comprising a thermal element that is disposed at least partially between a covering of the backrest and the backrest cushion and a fluid transfer device in fluid communication with the at least one passage within the backrest cushion.
8. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, further comprising a backrest fluid distribution system including at least one passage extending at least partially within the seat cushion.
9. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 6, further comprising a backrest thermal module that is in fluid communication with the at least one passage in the backrest cushion and comprising a thermoelectric device and a fluid transfer device.
10. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 9, further comprising a seat fluid distribution system including at least one passage extending at least partially within the seat cushion.
11. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 10, further comprising a seat thermal module that is in fluid communication with the at least one passage in the seat and comprising a thermoelectric device and a fluid transfer device.
12. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 11, wherein the thermoelectric device and fluid transfer device of the headrest, the seat thermal module and the backrest thermal module are operatively connected to a common control unit.
13. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 11, wherein the thermoelectric device and fluid transfer device of the headrest, the seat thermal module and the backrest thermal module are configured such that they can be controlled by a common user input and draw substantially the same current.
14. A climate controlled seat assembly comprising:
a seat comprising a seat cushion
a backrest comprising a backrest cushion with at least one first fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough;
a headrest comprising a headrest cushion, the headrest being positioned generally above the backrest, the headrest comprising a headrest cushion with at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough;
a backrest thermal module comprising a thermal electric device and a fluid transfer device, the backrest thermal module in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the backrest cushion; and
a headrest thermal module comprising a fluid transfer device, the thermal module in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the headrest cushion;
wherein the backrest thermal module and the headrest thermal module supported within the backrest.
15. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the backrest thermal module and headrest thermal module are coupled to a rear side of the backrest.
16. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the headrest thermal module is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the headrest cushion through a flexible conduit.
17. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the headrest is coupled to the backrest through adjustable supports such that the position of the headrest can be adjusted with respect to the backrest.
18. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 17, wherein the headrest thermal module is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the headrest cushion through a flexible conduit.
19. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 18, wherein the flexible conduit extends at least partially through the adjustable supports.
20. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 18, wherein the flexible conduit extends along the adjustable supports.
21. The climate control seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the backrest cushion includes a transition passage that places the least one fluid passageway in the headrest in communication with the headrest thermal module.
22. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the headrest includes at least one opening configured to transmit air from the at least one fluid passageway to a front surface of the headrest.
23. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, further comprising a thermal element that is disposed at least partially between a covering of the backrest and the backrest cushion.
24. A climate controlled seat assembly comprising:
a seat comprising a seat cushion;
a backrest comprising a backrest cushion;
a headrest comprising a headrest cushion that includes at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough; and
a thermal module in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway, the thermal module configured to provide at least cooled fluid to the at least one fluid passageway.
Description
PRIORITY INFORMATION

This application is claims benefit under 35 U.S.C § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/681,359, filed on May 16, 2005, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein and made a part of the present disclosure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

At least one of the inventions disclosed herein relates generally to climate controlled seat technology. Particularly, at least one of the inventions relates to providing and controlling ventilated air provided to the headrest of a set.

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. Most seat assemblies, even those with climate control of the seat, do not address providing climate controlled air to the headrest. Moreover, some seat assemblies have a headrest supported above the seat back, typically by adjustable posts. Thus, these headrests, usually including a cushion, are not only physically distinct from the cushion of the seat, but are also adjustable relative to the seat. Thus, any climate controlled air provided to the headrest must account for flexibility in connection of the air-providing apparatus.

Thus there is a need for an improved climate control apparatus for a climate control system for seats with headrests.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a seat having a seat cushion, a backrest having a backrest cushion, and a headrest having a headrest cushion. The headrest is moveably mounted to the backrest. The headrest cushion includes at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough. A thermoelectric device is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway. A fluid transfer device that is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway is coupled to the headrest such that the thermal module moves with the headrest as it is moved with respect to the backrest.

Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a seat having a seat cushion, a backrest having a backrest cushion with at least one first fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough and a headrest having a headrest cushion. The headrest is positioned generally above the backrest. The headrest includes a headrest cushion with at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough. A backrest thermal module includes a thermal electric device and a fluid transfer device. The backrest thermal module is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the backrest cushion. A headrest thermal module comprises a fluid transfer device. The thermal module is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway in the headrest cushion. The backrest thermal module and the headrest thermal module are supported within the backrest.

Another aspect of the present invention is a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a seat having a seat cushion, a backrest having a backrest cushion and a headrest having a headrest cushion. The headrest cushion comprising at least one fluid passageway extending at least partially therethrough. A thermal module is in fluid communication with the at least one fluid passageway. The thermal module is configured to cooled fluid to the at least one fluid passageway.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is schematic illustration of one embodiment of a vehicle seat assembly and climate control system;

FIG. 2 is schematic illustration of another embodiment of a vehicle seat assembly and climate control system;

FIG. 3 is schematic illustration of another embodiment of a vehicle seat assembly and climate control system;

FIG. 4 is schematic illustration of another embodiment of a vehicle seat assembly and climate control system;

FIG. 5 is a top view of an embodiment of a conduit of a vehicle seat assembly;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a headrest of a vehicle seat assembly;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a headrest of a vehicle seat assembly;

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a headrest of a vehicle seat assembly; and

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a headrest of a vehicle seat assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a ventilated seat assembly 30. In the illustrated embodiment, the seat assembly 30 can include a seat 32 and a backrest 34. When the occupant sits in the seat assembly 30, the occupant's back contacts a front surface 48 of the backrest portion 34 and the occupant's seat and legs contact a top surface 50 of the seat portion 32. The surfaces 48, 50 cooperate to support the occupant in a sitting position. The seat assembly 30 can be configured and sized to accommodate occupants of various size and weight.

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. Certain features and aspects can also be adapted to wheelchairs and assemblies that do not support a user in a seated position (e.g., beds).

With continued reference to FIG. 1, the backrest 34 has a rear side 56, a bottom side 60 and a front side 64. Although not illustrated, the backrest 34 can include a pair of sides for providing lateral support to the occupant of the seat assembly 30. The seat portion 32 can include a rear side 66, a top side 68 and a bottom side 70. The seat portion 32 can also include a pair of sides (not illustrated), which can extend 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, the seat assembly 30 can also include a headrest 202. The headrest 202 can preferably be supported by one or more support members 204 above the backrest portion 34. In a preferred embodiment, at least the height of the headrest 202 with respect to the backrest 34 can be adjusted. In one embodiment, the height can be adjusted by changing the length of the support members 204. Of course, those of skill in the art will recognize that any of a variety of adjusting mechanisms can be used to adjust the position of the headrest 202 and backrest 34. In some embodiments, such mechanisms can also adjust the angle of the headrest 202 with respect to the backrest 34.

The backrest 34, seat portion 32 and headrest 202 are generally formed by a cushion 72, which is covered with an appropriate covering material 74 (e.g., upholstery). The cushion 72 is typically supported on a metallic frame (not shown). In some embodiments, springs may be positioned between the frame and the cushion 72. The frame provides the seat assembly 30 with structural support while the cushion 72 provides a soft seating surface. The covering material 74 provides an aesthetic appearance and soft feel to the surface of the seat assembly 30. The cushion 72 can be a typical automotive seat cushion foam or other types of materials with suitable characteristics for providing support to an occupant. Such materials include, but are not limited to, closed or open-celled foam.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, the backrest 34, seat 32 and the headrest 202 can include fluid distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C for distributing fluid to/from the front surfaces 48, 50, 206 of backrest 34, seat 32 and the headrest 202. In general, the fluid distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C comprises inlet passages 78A, 78B, 78C from the rear or bottom sides of the seat cushion 72. The fluid distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C also include at least one, and often, a plurality of channels 80A, 80B, 80C, which extend from the inlet passages 78A, 78B, 78C generally parallel to the front and top surfaces 48, 50, 206 of the seat assembly 34.

As mentioned above, the cushion 72 may be formed from a typical automotive cushion material, such as, for example, an open or closed cell foam. In one embodiment, the cushion 72 is made of foam that is pre-molded to form the passages 78A, 78B, 78C and/or the channels 80A, 80B, 80C. In another embodiment, the passages 78A, 78B, 78C and/or the channels 80A, 80B, 80C can be formed by cutting foam out of the seat cushion 72.

As will be described in more detail below, the channels 80A, 80B, 80C can be covered by a scrim to define distribution passages 82A, 82B, 82C for transporting air through the seat assembly 30. The scrim can includes one or more openings for delivering air to and/or from the distribution passages 82A, 82B, 82C. The scrim can be formed of a material similar to the cushion 72. In one embodiment, the scrim can be attached to the cushion 72 in a manner that limits leakage between the scrim and cushion 72 thereby directing the flow of air through the openings. In one embodiment, an adhesive is used to attach the scrimA to the cushion 72. In other embodiments, a heat stake or fasteners can be used.

A distribution layer can be disposed between the scrim and the seat covering. The distribution layer can spread the air flowing through the openings along the lower surface of the covering. To permit airflow, the covering may be formed from an air-permeable material. For example, in one embodiment, the covering comprises an air-permeable fabric made of natural and/or synthetic fibers. In another embodiment, the covering is formed from a leather, or leather-like material that is provided with small openings or apertures.

The fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C can be generally configured to provide condition (e.g., heated and/or cooled) to the distribution system 76C. In other embodiments, the modules 92A, 92B, 92C can be used to remove and/or provide unconditioned air to the passages 82A, 82B, 82C.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, in a preferred embodiment, the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C can include a thermoelectric device 94A, 94B 94C for conditioning (e.g., selectively healing or cooling) the fluid flowing through the device 92A, 92B, 92C. A preferred thermoelectric device 94A, 94B, 94C is a Peltier thermoelectric module. The illustrated fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C can preferably also include a main heat exchanger 96A, 96B, 96C for transferring or removing thermal energy from the fluid flowing through the modules 92A, 92B, 92C and to the distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C. Such fluid can be transferred to the distribution system 76A, 76B, 76C through conduits 98A, 98B, 98C. In the illustrated embodiments, the modules 92A, 92B, 92C can also include a waste heat exchanger 100A, 100B, 100C that extends from the thermoelectric device 94A, 94B, 94C generally opposite the main heat exchanger 96A, 96B, 96C such that the waste heat exchanger 100A, 100B, 100C can transfer and/or remove heat to/from ambient air that is not supplied to the distribution system 76A, 76B, 76C. A pumping device 102A, 102B, 102C can preferably be associated with the fluid module 92A, 92B, 92C for directing fluid over the main and/or waste heat exchangers 96A, 96B, 96C, 100A, 100B, 100C. In one embodiment, the pumping device 102A, 102B, 102C comprises a radial fan and/or an axial fan positioned within a housing.

Each fluid module 92A, 92B, 92C can be connected to the control unit 110. The control unit 110 can be configured to control any fluid module 92A, 92B, 92C independently of any other fluid module. In some embodiments, the control unit 110 senses at least one state of the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C and uses feedback in operating the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C.

The control module 110 optionally can also be configured to receive a signal from a vehicle control device that can indicate whether the vehicle's ignition has been turned on. In this manner, the seat control module 110 can be configured to allow operation of the system only if the vehicle's engine is running. In one embodiment, the control unit 110 received a control signal from a user operated control device and/or another component of the vehicle operating system. The control unit 110 uses the control signal to drive and control the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C. In one embodiment, the control unit can provide a substantially constant current to each of the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C.

Various components can be described as being “operatively connected” to the control unit 110. It should be appreciated that this is a broad term that includes physical connections (e.g., electrical wires or hard wire circuits) and non-physical connections (e.g., radio or infrared signals). It should also be appreciated that “operatively connected” includes direct connections and indirect connections (e.g., through additional intermediate device(s)).

It should be appreciated that the fluid modules 92A, 92B, 92C described above represent only one exemplary embodiment of a device that may be used to at least cool, and in other embodiments, also heat and/or move air supplied to the distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C. Other embodiments, for example, can utilize resistant heaters, refrigeration systems etc.

The pumping device 102A, 102B, 102C and the fluid module 92A, 92B, 92C can preferably be configured to fit entirely within, partially within or along the headrest 202. As such, it can be preferred that the fluid module 92C and pumping device 102 are compact. Therefore, in a preferred embodiment, the pumping device can comprise an electrical radial fan. In other embodiments, the pumping device can comprise other types of electrical fans or blowers, such as, for example, an axial blower.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, in the illustrated embodiment, the seat assembly includes the headrest 202 with the fluid module 92C associated with the headrest 202. In one embodiment, the headrest fluid module 92C can be coupled to the headrest 202 such that it moves with the headrest 202 as it is adjusted. For example, in certain embodiments, the headrest 202 is configured to be moved at least vertically with respect to the backrest 34. In such an embodiment, the headrest fluid module 92C can be coupled to the rear side 57 of the headrest 202. In another embodiment, the headrest fluid module 92C can be positioned at least partially within the headrest 202.

FIG. 2 illustrates a modified illustrated embodiment of a seat assembly 300. This embodiment also includes a headrest 202, seat 32 and backrest 34 as described above. The headrest 202 can also include a distribution system 76C as described above. In this embodiment, a connection passage 302 can be provided to place the distribution system 76C for the headrest in communication with the fluid module 92A for the backrest 34. In the illustrated embodiment, the connection passage 302 can extend at least partially through the backrest 34 and through the support member 204. In a modified embodiment, the connection passage can extend further (e.g., into the seat 32) such that it is connected to the fluid module 92B for the seat 32 or another portion of the seat assembly 300.

With continued reference to FIG. 2, the dashed lines indicated by the reference number 320 illustrate another embodiment in which a connection passage 320 can connect the supply passage 98A to the distribution system 76C. The connection passage 320 can extend outside and/or along the backrest 34.

Thus, at least one embodiment can have a ventilated backrest 202 comprising a distribution system 76C, wherein fluid is supplied to the headrest 202 from fluid communication with a fluid conduit 78A disposed within the backrest 34. In the illustrated embodiment, an alternative passage 302 for fluid communication is shown. As can be seen, fluid can be supplied to the headrest 202 by the fluid module 92A associated with the backrest 34, which also supplies fluid to the fluid distribution system 76A for the backrest.

FIG. 3 illustrates yet another embodiment of ventilated seat assembly 400. In this embodiment, a connection passage 402 can extend through, near or along the support member 204 and through the backrest 34. The fluid module 92C for the headrest 202 can be associated with the backrest 34 (e.g., coupled or supported on the backrest or positioned partially therein). Although the passage 402 is illustrated as extending through the backrest 34, it should be appreciated that all or a portion of the passage 402 can extend outside the backrest 34. Additionally, at least a portion of the fluid passage 402 can extend through the backrest 34, while not extending near or along the support member 204.

FIG. 4 illustrates yet another embodiment of ventilated seat assembly 500. In this embodiment, a single fluid module 92A can remove or supply conditioned (e.g., cooled or cooled/heated) air to the headrest 202, the backrest 34 and the seat 32. Connection passages 502A-C can be provided for connecting the fluid module 92 to the distribution passages 76A, 76B, 76C for the backrest 34, the seat 32 and the headrest 202. The passages can be formed entirely within the seat assembly, partially within the seat assembly or entirely outside the seat assembly or any combination thereof. In addition, the distribution passages 76A, 76B, 76C are illustrated as capable of being in parallel with each other with respect to the fluid module 92. However, in some embodiments, two or more of these distribution passages 76A, 76B, 76C can be arranged in series with respect to the fluid module 92.

Thus, more than one fluid distribution system 76A, 76B, 76C can receive air from the same fluid module 92. As can be seen, in some embodiments, a single fluid module 92A can supply heated, cooled, or unconditioned air to, or withdraw air from, all of the fluid distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76C.

As is apparent from the description above, the above described embodiments can be configured to provided conditioned, and in particular, cooled air to the headrest 202 of the seat assembly. This is particularly advantageous because the cooling sensation can be more effectively perceived by the user when it is directed towards the neck and head area. For example, because of the large arteries in the back of the head, the cooling effect is often felt over the entire body of the user. Thus, by directing cool air in particular toward the user's head and neck, a more effective cooling sensation can be felt by the user as compared to the same level of cooling in the seat and backrest.

At least a part of the connecting members between a fluid module 92 and a fluid distribution system 82 can comprise a flexible or articulable conduit, as described below. In particular, in the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4, at least a portion of the passages supplying or removing air from the headrest 202 can be flexible to accommodate the adjustment of the position of the headrest 202 with respect to the backrest 34. For example, it can be advantageous to make the portion of the passage extending between the headrest 202 and the backrest 34 flexible (e.g., a bellow as described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/973,947, filed Oct. 25, 2004, which is hereby expressly incorporated by reference herein). It should also be appreciated that in the embodiments in which the supply passage extends through the support member 204 it can be advantages to use a flexible conduit. Such a flexible conduit can also be used in embodiments in which the supply passage extends outside (e.g., along) the support member 204.

FIG. 5 illustrates one embodiment of such a flexible conduit. The conduit 1096 can include a body 1098 having a first, inlet end 1100 and a second, outlet end 1102. The inlet end 1100 can form a first or inlet port 1104 and the outlet end 1102 can form a second or outlet port 1106. A fluid passage (not shown) can be formed by an inner surface of the body 1098. The fluid passage 1108 can extend from an inlet opening formed by the inlet port 1104 and an outlet opening formed by the outlet port 1106.

To facilitate such movement, at least a portion of the body 1098 can be flexible and/or capable of articulated movement. In addition, it is also advantageous that the length of the body 1098 can be lengthened or shortened. Accordingly, in the illustrated embodiment, the body 1098 can be formed, at least in part, from a flexible material such as, for example, rubber, other elastomers, flexible thermoplastics, and the like. During movement, it can be advantageous that the cross-sectional area of the passage 1108 not be significantly reduced (e.g., by crimping or buckling). Accordingly, in the illustrated embodiment, the body 1098 can have a bellow-type configuration comprising a plurality of folds 1116. In this manner, as the conduit 1096 bends the inner radius can shorten while the outer radius can lengthen to substantially preserve the cross-sectional area of the fluid passage 1108. In addition, the length of the conduit 1096 can be increased or decreased as the bellows expand or contract without significantly compromising the fluid passage 1108.

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 FIGS. 5-7, the inlet and outlet ends 1100, 1102 of the conduit 1096 can preferably be formed of a harder material as compared to the flexible portions therebetween. For example, in one embodiment, the inlet and outlet ends 1100, 1102 can be formed from a substantially rigid plastic while the portions of the conduit 1096 extending between the ends 100, 102 can be formed from a flexible material (e.g., rubber). The inlet and outlet ends 1100, 1102 can be formed from separate components that are attached to the remaining portions using adhesives, heat stakes, fasteners, etc. or by over-molding such portions.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the headrest 202, taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 1. FIGS. 7, 8, and 9 are cross-sectional views of other embodiments of headrests 202, taken along a similar line for each embodiment. As will be explained below, in these embodiments, the headrest 202 includes one or more thermal elements 160, which can be used to thermally condition (e.g., heat) air flowing through the distribution system 76C. For the sake of brevity, the thermal elements 160 and other aspects of the distribution system 76C will be described with respect to the headrest 202. However, it will be appreciated that these features and aspects can be extended to the distribution systems 76A, 76B of backrest 34 and seat 32.

As mentioned above, the headrest portion 202 can generally be formed by a cushion 72, which can be covered with an appropriate covering material 74 (e.g., upholstery, leather or vinyl). The cushion 72 can be usually supported on a metallic or plastic frame (not shown). In some embodiments, springs can be positioned between the frame and the cushion 72. The frame can provide the headrest 202 with structural support while the cushion 72 provides a soft surface for resting or leaning the occupant's head. The covering material 74 provides an aesthetic appearance and soft feel to the surface of the headrest 202.

The distribution system 76C can be formed with or without an insert 150. In some embodiments, the insert 150 in the shape of formed channels can be disposed on the surface of the cushion 72 of the headrest 202, but beneath the covering material 74. Thus, conditioned air can be directed to the surface of the headrest 202 through the channels of the insert 150 as an alternative to the embodiments described below. In one embodiment, the insert 150 is made of a material that is more impermeable to air as compared to the cushion 72. For example, in one embodiment, the insert 150 comprises closed cell foam or a plastic while the cushion 72 comprises an open cell foam. The insert 150 can also include a flanged portion 158, which extends generally parallel to a top surface of the cushion 72.

With continued reference to FIG. 6, a cover or scrim 81 can be positioned generally over the insert 150 to define distribution passages 82C for transporting air through the headrest 202. The scrim 81 can include one or more openings 84 for transporting air to and/or from the distribution passages 82C and preferably can provide structural support to prevent or reduce the seat cover 74 from depressing into the passages 82C. The scrim 81 preferably can include one or more thermal elements 160, which can preferably be positioned within the scrim 81 generally adjacent the one or more openings 84 and are configured to effect a temperature change in the space adjacent the headrest 202. As will be explained in more detail below, in the illustrated embodiment, the thermal elements 160 are used to heat the air transported through the seat assembly and/or heat the portions of the seat assembly adjacent the thermal elements 160. In a modified embodiment, the thermal elements 160 can comprise substantially continuous pad and/or a pad with a plurality of openings that generally replaces or lies over the scrim 81.

The thermal elements 160 may comprise any of variety of devices for causing a temperature change, such as, for example, resistive heaters (e.g., resistive wires, carbon fiber based heating elements, and carbon impregnated sheets), chemical-reaction heaters, heat exchanges and/or Peltier thermoelectric devices. The thermal elements 160 may be used in combination with fabrics, foams etc. to form the scrim 81. In other embodiments, the thermal elements 160 can be coupled to or positioned generally near the scrim 81. In the illustrated embodiment, the scrim 81 can be attached to the flange 158 in a manner that limits leakage between the scrim 81 and the insert 150, thereby directing the flow of air through the openings 84. In some embodiments, an adhesive can be used to attach the scrim 81 to the insert 150. In other embodiments, a heat stake or fasteners can be used.

With continued reference to FIG. 6, an optional distribution layer 86 can be disposed between the scrim 81 and the seat covering 74. The distribution layer 86 can spread the air flowing through the openings 84 along the lower surface of the covering 74. To permit airflow between the distribution layer 86 and the spaces proximal to the front surface of the headrest 202, the covering 74 can be formed from an air-permeable material. For example, in at least one embodiment, the covering 74 can comprise an air-permeable fabric made of natural and/or synthetic fibers. In other embodiments, the covering 74 is formed from a leather, or leather-like material that can be provided with small openings or apertures. In other embodiments, the distribution layer 86 can be omitted or combined with the seat covering 74 and/or the scrim 81. The scrim 81 can be configured to allow for the passage of air. In the illustrated embodiment, this can be accomplished by providing the scrim 81 with small openings or apertures. In other embodiments, the scrim 81 itself and/or the thermal elements 160 may be generally air-permeable.

FIG. 7 illustrates a modified embodiment of the distribution system 76C′ for the headrest 202. As in the previous embodiment, the distribution system 76C′ comprises an inlet passage 78C that extends from the rear side of the headrest 202 to the front side 206 of the headrest cushion 72. As with the distribution system 76C described above, the distribution system 76C′ also can include at least one, and often, a plurality of channels 80C, which extend from the inlet passage 78C. These channels 80C can be configured as described above.

In the distribution system 76C′, the portion of the headrest cushion 72 that forms the channels 80C can preferably be treated and/or covered with a coating, skin or other material configured such that air flowing through the channels 80C does not significantly seep into the headrest cushion 72. In other embodiments, the headrest cushion 72 can be formed from a dense foam, such as one that does not allow for significant seepage of air through the foam. In addition to or in the alternative, the distribution system 76C′ can include an insert or liner as described above with reference to FIG. 6.

The channels 80C are covered by the scrim or cover 81 to define distribution passages 82C, as described above, for transporting air through the headrest 202. The scrim 81 can preferably be configured as described above. Accordingly, the scrim 81 can include thermal elements 160 and one or more openings 84 for delivering air to and/or from the distribution passages 82C. As described above, the scrim 81 can preferably be attached to the headrest cushion 72 in a manner that limits leakage between the scrim 81 and headrest cushion 72. A distribution layer 86 can be optionally disposed between the scrim 81 and the seat covering 74. As mentioned above, in some embodiments, the distribution layer 86 can be omitted or combined with the headrest covering 74 and/or the scrim 81. In addition, as with the headrest covering 74, the scrim 81 itself can be configured such that it can be generally air-permeable and/or provided with small openings or apertures 8B as shown in the illustrated embodiment.

The thermal elements 160 can be used to change the temperature (e.g., increase) in the space or portions of the headrest adjacent the occupant of the seat assembly 200. The thermal elements 160 can preferably be used in combination with fluid flow provided through the distribution system 76C. As explained below, when used in combination with fluid flow, the air can be conditioned or unconditioned before the thermal elements 160 changes its temperature. For example, in some embodiments, air (which can be heated) can be delivered to the distribution passages 82C through the inlet passages 78C. The air then flows through the openings 84 and into the distribution layers 86. The air is then directed through the covering 74 to a space adjacent to the front surface of the headrest 202. In some embodiments, the climate control system 96C can be used to remove air, which is adjacent to the front surface of the headrest 202. In such embodiments, the air can be withdrawn through the covering 74 and into the distribution layers 86. The air can be then withdrawn through the openings 84 into the distribution passages 82C and through the inlet passage 78C. Thus, the air withdrawn and/or supplied through the distribution systems 76C can be used to supplement and/or enhance the thermal elements 160. In some embodiments, the thermal elements 160 provide heat to the occupant via conduction through the covering 74 and other layers of material. In such embodiments, the fluid flow can enhance the thermal elements 160 by also transferring the heat generated by the thermal elements 160 to the occupant via convection and/or conduction.

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 systems 76C for the headrest 202 can be modified in several different manners. For example, the shape and/or number of channels 80C and/or openings 84 can be modified. In other embodiments, the scrim 81 and/or distribution passages 82C can be combined and/or replaced with other components configured for similar functions. In other embodiments, the distribution systems 76A, 76B, 76B of the backrest 34, seat 32 and headrest 202 or portions thereof may be combined and/or interchanged with each other.

FIGS. 8 and 9 illustrate modified embodiments of the distribution systems 76C. In FIGS. 8 and 9, elements similar to those shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 are designated with the same reference numbers used in FIGS. 6 and 7. In addition, only certain components of the climate control system will be described in detail below. For those components not described in detail, reference may be made to the detailed description above.

With respect to FIG. 7, in this embodiment, the thermal element 160 for the headrest 202 can form at least in part a portion of the insert 150, which can form at least partially the distribution passage 82C. The air flowing through the distribution passage can be heated by the thermal element 160 and then be delivered to the occupant through the openings 84. In a modified embodiment, the thermal element 160 can be positioned along the inner or outer surface of the insert 150.

With respect to FIG. 9, the thermal elements 160 can line and/or form part of the channels 80C in the headrest cushion 72. Thus, the thermal elements 160 can heat the air flowing through the passages 82C. In some embodiments, the thermal elements 160 can be positioned within the cushion 72.

Accordingly, with the thermal elements 160 generally positioned within the cushion 72 between the seat cover 74 and the front side and the rear (or bottom) of the respected seat component (i.e. the headrest 202, backrest 34, seat 32), the thermal elements 160 can heat the air delivered by the fluid module. It should be appreciated that in some embodiments, one or more thermal elements (not shown) can be provided near or adjacent the front or top surfaces of the headrest 202, backrest 34, seat 32. In such embodiments, the thermal elements can be provided within the scrim 81 as described above with reference to FIGS. 6 and 7. With reference back to FIG. 1, as shown, the backrest 34, seat 32, and headrest 202 can each include one or more thermal elements 160A, 160B, 160C arranged as described above. In such embodiments, the thermal modules 92A, 92B, 92C can be configured to deliver unconditioned air to the seat assembly. In other embodiments, thermal modules 92A, 92B, 92C can be configured to deliver cooled and/or heated air to the seat assembly. The thermal elements 160A, 160B, 160C can be operatively connected to the control unit 110 or another separate control unit for controlling their operation.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, in one embodiment, the backrest 34 can include an electrical connector 205. The electrical connector 205 can be positioned on the backrest 34, for example, on an upper or top portion of the backrest 34. The electrical connector 205 can be configured to be such a quick connection can be made between the controller 110, for example, supported on the backrest 34 and the thermal module 92C and/or heating element 160C. In this manner, the seat assembly 30 can be made in a modular format in which the ventilated headrest 202 is an optional feature. That is, one style of seat with a standard backrest 34 and seat 32 can be used. The headrest 202 can include the distribution system 76 described above and be connected through the electrical connector 202 or the headrest can be a standard headrest with out a thermal module or ventilation system.

Although this invention has been disclosed in the context of certain preferred embodiments and examples, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the present invention extends beyond the specifically disclosed embodiments to other alternative embodiments and/or uses of the invention and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof. In addition, while a number of variations of the invention have been shown and described in detail, other modifications, which are within the scope of this invention, will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art based upon this disclosure. It is also contemplated that various combinations or subcombinations of the specific features and aspects of the embodiments may be made and still fall within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, it should be understood that various features and aspects of the disclosed embodiments can be combine with or substituted for one another in order to form varying modes of the disclosed invention. Thus, it is intended that the scope of the present invention herein disclosed should not be limited by the particular disclosed embodiments described above, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7640754Jan 15, 2007Jan 5, 2010Amerigon IncorporatedInsert duct piece for thermal electric module
US7708338Oct 10, 2007May 4, 2010Amerigon IncorporatedVentilation system for seat
US8414631 *Feb 13, 2008Apr 9, 2013Thermotek, Inc.System and method for cooled airflow for dermatological applications
US8434314Nov 8, 2010May 7, 2013Gentherm IncorporatedClimate control systems and methods
US8657863Sep 14, 2012Feb 25, 2014Thermo Tek, Inc.System and method for cooled airflow for dermatological applications
US20100192596 *Feb 13, 2008Aug 5, 2010Tony QuisenberrySystem and method for cooled airflow for dermatological applications
US20110115635 *May 6, 2010May 19, 2011Dusko PetrovskiControl schemes and features for climate-controlled beds
EP2258584A2 *May 7, 2010Dec 8, 2010Bayerische Motoren WerkeBackrest for a car seat
Classifications
U.S. Classification297/408
International ClassificationA47C1/10
Cooperative ClassificationA47C7/74, B60N2/5628
European ClassificationA47C7/74, B60N2/56C4C
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 14, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: AMERIGON, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:COMISKEY, BRIAN;LOFY, JOHN;REEL/FRAME:018177/0605
Effective date: 20060717