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Publication numberUS20070200398 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/364,841
Publication dateAug 30, 2007
Filing dateFeb 28, 2006
Priority dateFeb 28, 2006
Also published asWO2007100828A2, WO2007100828A3
Publication number11364841, 364841, US 2007/0200398 A1, US 2007/200398 A1, US 20070200398 A1, US 20070200398A1, US 2007200398 A1, US 2007200398A1, US-A1-20070200398, US-A1-2007200398, US2007/0200398A1, US2007/200398A1, US20070200398 A1, US20070200398A1, US2007200398 A1, US2007200398A1
InventorsScott Richard Wolas, Steven Craig Giffin
Original AssigneeScott Richard Wolas, Steven Craig Giffin
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Climate controlled seat
US 20070200398 A1
Abstract
A climate controlled seat assembly comprising a back structure within at least one forwardly extending side member, a seat cushion disposed on the front side of the back member, a fluid distribution system, and a climate control device. The climate control device is mounted on the rear side of the side member. A plenum duct places the fluid distribution system in fluid communication with the climate control device. The fluid distribution system is comprised of a plurality of channels. A plurality of inserts is disposed within each of a plurality of grooves in the seat cushion. The fluid provided by the climate control device through the plenum duct into the fluid distribution system adjusts the climate of the seat.
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Claims(20)
1. A climate control seat assembly, comprising
a rigid back structure including a back member and at least one side member extending forwardly from the back member, a rigid back structure having a front side and a rear side;
a seat cushion disposed on the front side of the rigid back structure;
a fluid distribution system comprising a plurality of channels at least partially disposed in the seat cushion, and a duct at least partially disposed in the seat cushion and in fluid communication with at least one of the plurality of channels; and
a climate control device positioned at least partially on the rear side of the at least one side member.
2. The climate control seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the rigid back structure comprises a panel.
3. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 2, wherein the climate control device is in fluid communication with the duct.
4. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 3, wherein each of the plurality of channels is disposed generally horizontally.
5. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 4, wherein the plurality of channels is configured to distribute fluid to the front surface of the seat cushion.
6. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 5, wherein the duct is disposed generally vertically.
7. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 6, wherein a plurality of tie-down members is disposed on the front side of the cushion between the channels.
8. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein a shaping bracket is mounted on the rear side of the at least one side member under the seat cover.
9. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 8, wherein the shaping bracket is configured to alter the contour of a seat cover near the climate controlled device.
10. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 1, wherein the climate control device comprises a Peltier circuit.
11. A climate controlled seat assembly, comprising:
a rigid back structure having a front side and a rear side and comprising a back member and at least one side member extending forwardly from the back member;
a seat cushion disposed on the front side of the rigid back structure;
a fluid distribution system at least partially positioned in the seat cushion;
a climate control device configured to provide climate conditioned air to the fluid distribution system, the climate control device positioned on a rear side of the rigid back structure; and
a duct that extends at least partially through the at least one side member to place the climate control device in fluid communication with the fluid distribution system.
12. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 11, wherein the distribution system includes a plurality of channels that extend along a front side of the seat cushion in a generally horizontal direction.
13. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 12, wherein a plurality of tie-down members is disposed between the plurality of channels.
14. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 11, wherein the climate control device comprises a Peltier circuit.
15. A climate controlled vehicle seat, comprising:
a back structure;
a seat cushion having a front side and a rear side, disposed on the front side of the back structure, and having at least one vertically extending side portion;
a duct extending in a generally vertical direction, adjacent to the at least one vertically extending side portion, and at least partially disposed within the seat cushion; and
a plurality of channels extending generally horizontally from the duct and in fluid communication with the duct, the plurality of channels being at least partially disposed within the seat cushion.
16. The climate controlled vehicle seat of claim 15, further comprising a climate control device is in fluid communication with the duct.
17. The climate controlled vehicle seat of claim 16, wherein the climate control device comprises of Peltier circuit.
18. The climate controlled vehicle seat of claim 15, wherein a plurality of tie-down members are disposed on the front side of the cushion between the plurality of channels.
19. A fluid distribution system, comprising:
a first duct that is configured to be at least partially disposed in a climate controlled seat assembly and to extend in a generally vertical direction;
a plurality of channels that are configured to be disposed on a front side of a seat cushion of the climate controlled seat assembly and to extend generally horizontally from the first duct; and
a climate control device that is configured to deliver or withdraw fluid to or from said first duct.
20. The fluid distribution system of claim 19, wherein the climate control device comprises of Peltier circuit.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    This invention relates to climate control. More specifically, this invention relates to climate of a seat.
  • [0003]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0004]
    Temperature modified air for environmentally controlled 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 modifications is desirable. For example, it is often desirable to provide an individualized climate control for an occupant's seat so that substantially instantaneous heating or cooling can be achieved. For example, in an automotive vehicle exposed to summer weather, where the vehicle has been parked in an unshaded area for a long period of time, the vehicle seat can become 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 warm the vehicle's interior as quickly. For reasons such as these, there have long been various types of individualized climate control systems for vehicle seats.
  • [0005]
    Such climate control systems typically include a distribution system comprising a combination of channels and passages formed in the cushion of this seat. Climate conditioned air is supplied to these channels and passages by a climate controlled device. Climate conditioned air flows through the channels and passages to cool or heat the space adjacent the surface of the vehicle seat.
  • [0006]
    There are, however, problems that have been experienced with existing climate control systems for seats. For example, some climate control systems are not easily adapted into existing seat construction methods. For example, in the construction of some seats, ready access between the climate controlled device on the rear of the seat and the distribution channel on the front of the seat is not easily obtainable. As a result, the connection between the climate control device and a distribution system may involve a long or tortuous route consisting of many expensive or intricate components.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention comprises a climate control seat assembly that includes a rigid back structure with a back member and at least one side member extending forwardly from the back member. The rigid back structure has a front side and a rear side. A seat cushion is disposed on the front side of the rigid back structure. A fluid distribution system comprises a plurality of channels that are at least partially disposed in the seat cushion. A duct is also least partially disposed in the seat cushion and in is in fluid communication with the plurality of channels. A climate control device is mounted at least partially on a rear side of the at least one side member and is configured to provide conditioned or unconditioned air to the fluid distribution system.
  • [0008]
    Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled seat assembly that includes a rigid back structure that has a front side and a rear side. The rigid back structure also includes a back member and at least one side member extending forwardly from the back member. A seat cushion is disposed on the front side of the rigid back structure. A fluid distribution system is at least partially positioned in the seat cushion. A climate control device is configured to provide climate conditioned air to the fluid distribution system. The climate control device is positioned on a rear side of the rigid back structure. A duct extends at least partially through the at least one side member to place the climate control device structure in fluid communication with the fluid distribution system.
  • [0009]
    Another aspect of the present invention comprises a climate controlled vehicle seat that includes a rigid back structure. A seat cushion has a front side and a rear side disposed on the front side of the back structure. The seat cushion has at least one vertically extending side portion. A duct extends in a generally vertical direction, adjacent to the at least one vertically extending side portion. The duct is at least partially disposed within the seat cushion. A plurality of channels extends generally horizontally from the duct and are in fluid communication with the duct.
  • [0010]
    Another aspect of the present invention comprises a fluid distribution system that includes a first duct that is configured to be at least partially disposed in a climate controlled seat assembly and to extend in a generally vertical direction. A plurality of channels are configured to be disposed on a front side of the seat cushion of the climate controlled seat assembly and to extend generally horizontally from the first duct. A climate control device is configured to deliver or withdraw fluid to or from said first duct.
  • [0011]
    All of these modes, variations, and aspects of the invention are intended to be within the scope of the invention herein disclosed. These other variations of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art following the detailed description of the preferred embodiments.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0012]
    These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will now be described in connection with preferred embodiments of the invention, in reference the accompanying drawings. The illustrated embodiments, however, are merely examples and are not intended to limit the invention. The drawings include the following 7 Figures.
  • [0013]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a climate controlled vehicle seat.
  • [0014]
    FIG. 2 is a perspective drawing of a vehicle seat with the interior revealed and climate control components removed.
  • [0015]
    FIG. 3 is a perspective of the climate controlled seat of FIG. 1 with the interior revealed and components in view.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of the climate controlled seat of FIG. 1, the seat back and climate control device in view.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken along A-A.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 6 is cross-sectional view denoted by detail B-B.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 7 is an exploded view of the components of a climate controlled seat.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0020]
    To assist in the description of the disclosed embodiments, words such as upward, upper, downward, lower, vertical, horizontal, upstream, downstream, and the other directional or direction-indicating words are used 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.
  • [0021]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a seat assembly 1 that comprises a seat bottom 10. The seat assembly 1 can accommodate and support a portion of a person in a sitting position. When the person sits in the seat assembly 1, the person's seat can be located in a seat area 12 of the seat assembly 1 and at least a portion of their legs can be supported by a thigh area 14 of the seat assembly 1.
  • [0022]
    The seat assembly 1 has a front end 16 and a rear end 18. The seat assembly 1 also has a pair of sides 20, 22 extending between the ends for providing lateral support to the occupant of the seat assembly 1. As shown in FIG. 1, the rear end 18 can be configured to be coupled to a seat back 24 such that the seat bottom 10 and seat back 24 cooperate to define a sitting area.
  • [0023]
    The rear end 18 of the seat assembly 1 is coupled to a bottom end 26 of the back assembly 28. When the occupant sits in the seat, the occupant's back contacts the surface of the back assembly 28 and the occupant's seat and legs contact a surface of the seat assembly 1. The surfaces cooperate to support the occupant, preferably in a comfortable sitting position. The seat 1 can be configured and sized to accommodate occupants of various size and weight. One of ordinary skill in the art can determine the appropriate size and configuration of the seat to achieve the desired sitting area for a particular person and vehicle. In the illustrated embodiment, the seat is similar to a standard automotive seat.
  • [0024]
    In the illustrated embodiment, the seat assembly 1 is similar to a standard automotive seat. However, it should be appreciated that certain features and aspects of the seat assembly 1 described herein may also be used in a variety of other applications and environments. For example, certain features and aspects of the seat assembly 1 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 1 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.
  • [0025]
    Referring now to FIG. 2, the back assembly 28 includes a rigid back structure 102. The rigid back structure 102 comprises rear member 103, which in the illustrated embodiment comprises a rigid, continuous panel. However, in other embodiments of the rear member 103 can include non-continuous structures, such as those with holes, grooves, or other discontinuities in the material, or non-planar structures, such as those with bends, angles, or curves. In some embodiments, the rear member 103 may be composed of a metal frame, whereas in other embodiments, any of a number of rigid plastics could be used.
  • [0026]
    With continued reference to FIG. 2, the back structure 102 can include two side members 104, 106 extending forwardly at an angle from the rear member 103. In other embodiments, the back structure 102 can have more or fewer side members. In some embodiments, the back structure 102 can be shaped to provide the same lateral support as the side members 104, 106, and lack separate side members. For example, the back structure 102 can have a curved configuration. In the illustrated embodiment, the side members 104, 106 comprise substantially flat panel like structures.
  • [0027]
    A seat cushion 108 may be disposed on the front side of the back structure 102. The seat cushion 108 may be constructed of closed-cell foam, although other materials could be used. The seat cushion 108 can extend from the bottom of the back structure 102 to the top of the back structure 102 or, in some embodiments, only partially along the distance from the bottom of the seat back 24 to the top of the back structure 102. The back structure 102 and seat cushion 108 can be enclosed or covered by a seat cover 110. The seat cover 110 can be composed of any regular or breathable fabric with which car seats are normally covered, including, but not limited to, natural or synthetic fibers or leather.
  • [0028]
    As can be seen from the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, a portion of the seat cushion 108 can be removed to accommodate the various components of the climate controlled seat. In other embodiments, the cushion 108 can be formed with gaps and spaces for the components of the climate controlled seat. In the illustrated embodiment, substantially horizontally extending grooves 120 are formed in the region of the seat cushion 108 nearest the seat cover 110. In addition, a transition passage 122 extends substantially vertically within the cushion 108 between the grooves 120. The transition passage 122 is connected to a through passage 123, which can extend through the cushion 108 and through the back structure 102. In a preferred embodiment, the through passage 123 extends through the side panel 104 of the back structure 102. In other embodiments, the grooves 120 can be located in the middle of the seat cushion and fluidly communicate with an insert on the front surface. In yet other embodiments, the grooves 120 may manifest as material removed from the rear surface of the seat cushion 108 in fluid communication with the front surface of the seat cushion 108. In embodiments where the grooves 120 are not located on the front surface of the cushion 108, extensions of the grooves 120 towards the front surface of the seat cushion 108 can place the grooves 120 in fluid communication with the front surface of the cushion 108. In these embodiments, inserts can still be disposed on the front surface of the seat cushion 108.
  • [0029]
    Referring now to FIG. 3, a fluid distribution system 200 comprising a plurality of inserts 210 is disposed on the front of the seat cushion 108. The inserts 210 can comprise a plurality of channels 220 disposed in the grooves 120 formed into the front surface of the seat cushion 108. The channels 220 can be generally U-shaped, having an open face on the front side surface of the seat cushion 108 (see FIGS. 5 and 6). The plurality of channels 220 can be disposed generally horizontally in the seat cushion 108. The channels 220 can extend from a minimum distance away from either side of a side edge of the seat cushion 108. Each of the plurality of channels 220 can extend from the side edge of the seat cushion 108 at least partially across the seat cushion 108.
  • [0030]
    As can be seen in FIG. 3, a plenum duct 230 can be positioned in the transition passages 122 such that it extends in a generally vertical direction between the inserts 210. The plenum duct 230 places at least one of the channels 220 (and more preferably all) in fluid communication with a rear side 236 of the back structure through an inlet duct 231 positioned in the through passage 123. In one embodiment, the inlet duct 231 can extend from the rear side 232 of one side panel, through the panel, and at least partially into the seat cushion 108 to the plenum duct 230. The plenum duct 230, in turn, can connect to at least one of the channels 220 on the front side of the seat cushion 108. In the illustrated embodiment, the inlet duct 231 passes directly through the side panel 104. In other embodiments, the inlet duct 231 can extend through another portion of the the back structure 102.
  • [0031]
    With continued reference to FIG. 3, a plurality of tie-down members 232 can be disposed on the front surface of the seat cushion 108. In the illustrated embodiment, the tie-down members 232 can extend in a generally horizontal direction and can be positioned between the inserts 210. The seat cover 110 may be stitched or otherwise secured to at least one of the plurality of tie-down members 232 disposed on the front of the front surface 240 of the seat cushion 108.
  • [0032]
    As shown in the illustrated embodiment depicted in FIG. 3, a climate control device 250 can be coupled to the rear side of the side panel 104. In another embodiment, the climate control device 250 is mounted directly to the rear side panel 104. The climate control device 250 can have an outlet 251 (see FIG. 7) that is in fluid communication with the inlet duct 231. The climate control device 250 can be configured to provide a fluid to the fluid distribution system 200 through the inlet duct 231. The fluid provided can be a gas, including without limitation, air. The climate control device 250 can control the temperature and/or humidity of air provided. The climate control device 250 can produce a pressure which will force the fluid forward into through the inlet duct 231 into the plenum duct 230. The plenum duct 230 may then distribute the climate conditioned fluid through the plurality of channels 220. In some embodiments, a gas-permeable layer 261 (see FIG. 6) atop each of the channels 220 substantially inhibits immediate flow of the climate conditioned fluid out of the insert 210. As a result, the climate controlled fluid travels the length of each insert 210 and generates a pressure sufficient to force the climate controlled fluid through the gas-permeable layer 261. Thus, the gas-permeable layer 261 allows pressure to be equalized among all of the channels 220 prior to substantial flow of the fluid across the gas-permeable layer 261. In some embodiments, the climate controlled fluid then passes through a diffusion layer 262 (see FIG. 6) through holes provided in a diffusion layer 262. The seat cover 110 is then heated or cooled by the climate conditioned fluid in the general vicinity of each of the channels 220.
  • [0033]
    In one embodiment, the climate control device 250 comprises a heat transfer device as described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,223,539, 6,119,463, 5,524,439 or 5,626,021, which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. In a preferred embodiment, the climate control device 250 utilizes a Peltier Circuit for cooling and/or heating the fluid. An example of such a system is currently sold under the trademark Micro-Thermal Module™ by Amerigon, Inc. As defined in this application, a climate controlled device is one which can be configured to provide a heated fluid, a cooled fluid, or an unmodified fluid. As a non-limiting example, a climate control device is a device that can be adapted to heat and provide a fluid, such as air, to a seat. In another non-limiting example, a climate control device is a device that can be adapted to cool and provide a fluid, such as air, to a seat. In yet another non-limiting example, a climate control device is a device that can be adapted to provide air which has not had its temperature modified by the device to a seat. In alternative embodiments, the air supplied by the climate control device can have its temperature modified through other influences. A non-limiting example of this last type of climate control device is a fan. Other embodiments can also comprise fans.
  • [0034]
    The extension of the inlet duct 231 through the side panel 104 allows the climate control device 250 to be mounted on the rear side 236 of the side panel 104. This arrangement is particularly advantageous in seat arrangements in which there is no or very limited space directly behind the rear member 101. The plenum duct 230 and channels 220, in turn, distribute the air from the climate control device 250 vertically and across the width of the seat 1.
  • [0035]
    As can be seen in FIG. 4, a spacing bracket 260 can be disposed on top of the climate control device 250. The spacing bracket 260 can be attached to the rear side of the side panel above, below, or to the sides of the climate control device 250. The spacing bracket 260 can provide protection for the climate control device 250 and can inhibit the seat cover 110 from directly contacting the climate control device 250. The spacing bracket 260 can also be configured to conform to an aesthetically pleasing shape when surrounded by the seat cover 110. The spacing bracket can 260 also allow the side panel onto which the climate control device 250 is mounted to replicate the shape and size of a side panel onto which climate control device 250 is not mounted when wrapped by the seat cover 110. In this way, the seat when seen with the seat cover 110 completely wrapping the climate controlled seat assembly will not appear to have any additional components mounted and disposed within it. Additionally, the spacing bracket can inhibit the seat cover 110 from sealing any intakes on the climate control device 250. Thus, the spacing bracket 260 can also protect the fluid flow integrity of the climate controlled seat assembly.
  • [0036]
    With reference now to FIGS. 5-7, additional details of the illustrated embodiment of the climate controlled seat assembly will now be described. As shown in FIG. 5, the plurality of inserts 210 can comprise U-shaped channels 220 that are disposed within the plurality of grooves 120 formed into the seat cushion 108. The tie-down members 232 extend horizontally between the channels 220. The tie-down members 232 and inserts 210 are covered by the seat cover 110.
  • [0037]
    Turning to FIG. 6, the U-shaped channels can include a flange 211 that is positioned within a corresponding recess 215 formed on the front surface of the seat cushion 108. The recess 215 can be configured such that the channel 220, when placed in the groove 120, has the top surface of the flange approximately flush with the front surface of the seat cushion 108. As mentioned above, the gas-permeable layer 261 is placed over the channel 220. In some embodiments, the gas-permeable layer 261 can be attached to the flange 211 of the channel 220 via an adhesive. Disposed over the gas-permeable layer 260 can be the diffusion layer 262. The diffusion layer 262 can permit the passage of a gas from within the channel 220 to the ambient atmosphere through a series of holes in the diffusion layer 262.
  • [0038]
    FIG. 7 is an exploded view of some of the components of a climate controlled seat assembly that were described above. The plenum duct 230 can include a plurality of connection conduits 233 a,b,c that can be aligned and connected to the plurality of channels 220. The plenum duct 230 illustrated is approximately a rectangular prism, though other shapes can be used. The plenum duct 230 places each of the channels 220 in fluid communication with the other.
  • [0039]
    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 the 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 combined with, or substituted for, one another in order to perform 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.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification297/180.15
International ClassificationA47C7/72
Cooperative ClassificationB60N2/5657, B60N2/5635, B60N2/5678
European ClassificationB60N2/56E, B60N2/56C4F, B60N2/56C4T
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 16, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: AMERIGON, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WOLAS, SCOTT R.;GIFFIN, STEVEN C.;REEL/FRAME:018181/0497
Effective date: 20060712