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Publication numberUS20070262621 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/696,107
Publication dateNov 15, 2007
Filing dateApr 3, 2007
Priority dateOct 25, 2004
Publication number11696107, 696107, US 2007/0262621 A1, US 2007/262621 A1, US 20070262621 A1, US 20070262621A1, US 2007262621 A1, US 2007262621A1, US-A1-20070262621, US-A1-2007262621, US2007/0262621A1, US2007/262621A1, US20070262621 A1, US20070262621A1, US2007262621 A1, US2007262621A1
InventorsHanh Dong, John Lofy, David Marquette
Original AssigneeHanh Dong, John Lofy, David Marquette
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus for providing fluid through a vehicle seat
US 20070262621 A1
Abstract
A seat assembly comprises a seat cushion having an outer surface comprising a front side for supporting an occupant in a sitting position and a rear side. A base member is positioned on the rear side of the seat cushion. A first passage extends through the seat cushion. A ventilation system is provided for distributing air from the first passage along the support surface of the seat cushion. A climate control apparatus is provided for providing climate conditioned air to the ventilation system. A conduit connects the climate control apparatus to the ventilation system.
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Claims(20)
1. A conduit for placing a climate control device in fluid communication with a fluid passage in a cushion, the conduit comprising:
a body;
a first port at a first end of the body, the first port comprising an engagement member adapted to couple the first port to the climate control device; and
a second port at a second end of the body, the second port configured to cooperate with a rear side of the cushion.
2. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein the body is made of a flexible material.
3. The conduit as in claim 2, wherein the body is made of an elastomer
4. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein at least one of the first port and the second port is made of plastic.
5. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein both of the first port and the second port are made of plastic.
6. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein the second port is configured to be attached to the rear side of the cushion.
7. The conduit of claim 1, wherein the second end of the body includes a flange that surrounds the second port.
8. The conduit as in claim 7, wherein the flange is configured to fit within a recess formed on the rear side of the automotive seat.
9. The conduit as in claim 8, wherein the flange includes a touch fastener.
10. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein the engagement member comprises a prong configured to be inserted into an opening.
11. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein the engagement member comprises at least one clip configured to engage a recess.
12. The conduit as in claim 1, wherein the body has a bellows arrangement.
13. A climate controlled seat assembly, comprising:
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 front side generally facing in opposite directions;
a passage extending through the seat cushion, the passage communicating with an opening on the rear side of the portion of the seat cushion;
a fluid system to supply or withdraw fluid from the passage; and
a conduit extending from the passage, the conduit comprising:
a first end comprising an engagement member adapted to secure the conduit to an output port of the fluid system in a snap fit; and
a second end configured place the conduit in fluid communication with the passage extending through the seat cushion.
14. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 13, wherein the seat assembly further comprises a heat transfer device.
15. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the heat transfer device comprises a Peltier Circuit.
16. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 14, wherein the heat transfer device comprises a resistive heating element.
17. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 12, wherein the second end of the conduit includes a touch fastener.
18. The climate controlled seat assembly of claim 13, wherein the conduit is flexible.
19. A method of assembling a climate controlled seat assembly comprising the steps of:
providing a cushion having an opening accessible from at least one side of the cushion, the cushion being attached to a frame;
attaching a conduit to the cushion so as to place the conduit in fluidic communication with the opening; and
coupling a portion of the conduit to a fluid flow generation device with a snap fit.
20. The method of claim 19, wherein attaching the conduit to the cushion further comprises utilizing a touch fastener having a first portion coupled to the cushion and a second portion coupled to the conduit.
Description
    CLAIM OF PRIORITY
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation-in-part from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/973,947, filed Oct. 25, 2004 which is incorporated in its entirety by reference herein.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0003]
    This invention relates to climate control. More specifically, this invention relates to climate control of a cushion.
  • [0004]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0005]
    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.
  • [0006]
    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 to the surface of the vehicle seat.
  • [0007]
    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.
  • [0008]
    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.
  • [0009]
    Thus there is a need for an improved climate control apparatus for a climate control system for seats.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0010]
    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, wheel chair, theater seat or bed). The conduit comprises a 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.
  • [0011]
    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 can include 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.
  • [0012]
    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 of 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.
  • [0013]
    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.
  • [0014]
    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 expels air to the passage via a conduit that couples the fluid system with the passage. The conduit is expandable in length.
  • [0015]
    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.
  • [0016]
    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.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0017]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a vehicle seat assembly;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2 is a side view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 1 with a portion of the seat assembly removed;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 2A is a cross-sectional view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 1 taken along line 2A-2A of FIG. 2.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 3 is a front view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 1 with a covering of the seat assembly removed;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 4 is a rear view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 1;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 5 is a rear perspective view of the seat assembly of FIG. 1 with an adjustable lumbar support device and climate control apparatus removed;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 6 is a top view of a conduit of the vehicle seat assembly;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 7 is a front view of the conduit if FIG. 6;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 8 is a rear view of the conduit of FIG. 6;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 9A is a schematic side view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 1 with the lumbar support device in an un-actuated position and a flexible conduit of the climate control apparatus in a generally un-extended state;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 9B is a schematic side view of the vehicle seat assembly of FIG. 9A with the lumbar support device in an actuated position and the flexible conduit in a generally extended state; and
  • [0028]
    FIG. 10 is a side perspective view of a portion of an adjustable lumbar support and a climate control apparatus with a portion of the climate control apparatus shown in cross-section.
  • [0029]
    FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a conduit of the vehicle seat assembly.
  • [0030]
    FIG. 11 a is a front view of the conduit of FIG. 11.
  • [0031]
    FIG. 12 is a side view of the conduit of FIG. 11.
  • [0032]
    FIG. 13 is a top view of the conduit of FIG. 11.
  • [0033]
    FIG. 14 is a rear view of the conduit of FIG. 11.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0034]
    FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate an exemplary embodiment of a seat assembly 30 that comprises a seat portion 32, a backrest portion 34, an adjustable lumbar support device 36 and a climate control apparatus 38, which will be described in detail below. When a occupant sits in the seat assembly 30, the occupant's seat is located generally in a seat area 40 of the seat portion 32 and at least a portion of their legs are supported by a thigh area 42 of the seat portion 32. In this embodiment, a rear end 44 of the seat portion 32 is coupled to a bottom end 46 of the backrest portion 34. When the occupant sits in the seat assembly 30, the occupant's back contacts the 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.
  • [0035]
    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.
  • [0036]
    With continued reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the backrest 34 has a front side 54, a rear side 56, a top side 58 and a bottom side 60. The backrest 34 includes a pair of sides 57, 59 extending between the top side 58 and bottom side 60 for providing lateral support to the occupant of the seat assembly 30. A lumbar region 62 of the backrest 34 is generally positioned between the sides 57, 59 of the backrest 34 near the seat portion 32.
  • [0037]
    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.
  • [0038]
    FIG. 2A is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the backrest 34. As shown, the backrest 34 is 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 seat portion 32 may be constructed in a similar manner as the backrest 34.
  • [0039]
    FIG. 3 illustrates the seat assembly with the covering 74 removed thereby exposing the cushion 72. 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.
  • [0040]
    As shown in FIG. 3, the seat assembly is provided with a fluid distribution system 76. The distribution system 76 comprises an inlet passage 78 through from the front side 54 to the rear side 56 of the seat cushion 72. (See also FIG. 5). The distribution system 76 also includes at least one, and often, a plurality of channels 80, which extend from the inlet passage 78.
  • [0041]
    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.
  • [0042]
    With reference back to FIG. 2A, the channels 80 are covered by a scrim 81 to define distribution passages 82 for transporting air through the seat assembly 30. The scrim 81 includes one or more openings 84 for delivering air to and/or from the distribution passages 82. The scrim 81 may be formed of a material similar to the cushion 72. In the illustrated embodiment, the scrim 81 is attached to the cushion 72 in a manner that limits leakage between the scrim 81 and cushion 72 thereby directing the flow of air through the openings 84. In one embodiment, an adhesive is used to attach the scrim 81 to the cushion 72. In other embodiments, a heat stake or fasteners may be used.
  • [0043]
    With continued reference to FIG. 2A, a distribution layer 86 is disposed between the scrim 81 and the seat covering 74. The distribution layer 86 spreads 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 48 of the backrest 34, the covering 74 may be formed from an air-permeable material. For example, in one embodiment, the covering 74 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.
  • [0044]
    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.
  • [0045]
    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.
  • [0046]
    With reference now to FIGS. 1, 2 and 4, the adjustable lumbar support device 36 is configured to provide generally for incrementally adjusting of the contour of the front surface 48 of the lumbar region 62 to provide variable lumbar support. In the illustrated embodiment, the adjustable lumbar support device 36 generally comprises a lumbar support member 88 coupled to a frame 90, which is positioned on the rear side 56 of the backrest 34. The frame 90 includes two generally vertically extending rails 91, and the support member 88 is coupled to the frame 90 in a manner allowing at least one of the support member's upper and lower ends 92, 93 to move along the rails 91. In the illustrated embodiment, both the upper and lower ends 92, 93 of the support member 88 can be slid toward each other along the rails 91 so as to bow the support member 88 outwards in a direction towards the front surface 48 of the lumbar region 62. An actuating device (which has been omitted to simplify the drawing) is supported by the frame 90 or otherwise coupled to the seat. The actuating device preferably includes one or more cables that are pulled to slide the upper and lower ends 92, 93 of the support member 88 along the rails 91. An electric lumbar motor or a manual device can be used to pull the cables. When the motor or manual device relaxes the cables, the support member 88 returns to its undeflected position. The actuating device thus is configured to move the support member 88 between at least a first position, in which the support member 88 is positioned a first distance to the frame 90, and a second position, in which the support member 88 is positioned a second, farther distance from the frame 90. As the support member 88 is moved from the first position to the second position, it pushes against the rear side 56 of the cushion 72 generally in the direction labeled A in FIG. 2, thereby adjusting the contour of the front surface 48 of the lumbar region 62.
  • [0047]
    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.)
  • [0048]
    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 FIGS. 1, 2 and 4. The climate control apparatus 38 preferably includes a fluid system 94, which preferably includes a pumping device for pumping fluid (e.g., air). In a preferred embodiment, the fluid system 94 also includes a heat transfer device for thermally conditioning (e.g., heating and/or cooling) the pumped fluid. In one embodiment, the fluid system 94 comprises a heat transfer device as described in U.S. Pat. No. 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 fluid system 94 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.
  • [0049]
    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 FIGS. 6-8. With initial reference to these FIGS., the conduit 96 includes body 98 having a first, inlet end 100 and a second, outlet end 102. The inlet end 100 forms a first or inlet port 104 and the outlet end 102 forms a second or outlet port 106. A fluid passage 108 is formed by an inner surface 110 of the body 98. The fluid passage 108 extends from an inlet opening 112 formed by the inlet port 104 and an outlet opening 114 formed by the outlet port 106. As shown, in the illustrated embodiment, the passage 108 has a generally elongated oval shape, which generally corresponds to the shape of the inlet passage 78. However, it should be appreciated that in modified embodiments the passage 108 may have a different shape, which is similar or different than the shape of the inlet passage 78.
  • [0050]
    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.
  • [0051]
    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.
  • [0052]
    With continued reference to FIGS. 6-8, the inlet and outlet ends 100, 102 of the conduit 96 are preferably formed of a harder material as compared to the flexible portions therebetween. For example, in one embodiment, the inlet and outlet ends 100, 102 are formed from a substantially rigid plastic while the portions of the conduit 96 extending between the ends 100, 102 are formed from a flexible material (e.g., rubber). The inlet and outlet ends 100, 102 may be formed from separate components that are attached to the remaining portions using a mechanical interference (e.g., press fit, interlocking parts, etc.) adhesives (e.g., a chemically bonded adhesive), heat stakes, fasteners, etc. or by a plastic molding process (e.g., over-molding such portions, co-molding, etc.).
  • [0053]
    With reference now to FIGS. 5 and 9, in the illustrated embodiment, the outlet port 106 is coupled to the rear side 56 of the backrest 34. As explained above, the rear side 56 of the backrest 34 moves as the lumbar support device 36 is adjusted. To facilitate coupling the outlet port 106 to the rear side 56 of the backrest 34, the outlet port 106 includes a flange 120 (see also FIG. 7), which surrounds the outlet opening 114. With reference to FIG. 5, the rear side 56 of the backrest 34 can include a corresponding recess 122 formed or cut from the cushion 72 for receiving the flange 120. The recess 122 is generally positioned about the inlet passage 78. In one embodiment, an adhesive is placed between the flange 120 and the recess 122 to secure the outlet end 102 of the conduit 102 to the cushion 72. In this manner, the passage 108 is placed in fluid communication with the fluid distribution system 76 described above. In other embodiments, the flange 120 may be secured by belts, straps, hook and loop fasteners, tape, etc. that extend over the edges of the flange 120 and onto the rear side of the cushion 72. Fasteners may also be used to secure the flange 120 within the recess 122. In another embodiment, the flange 120 may be provided with any of a variety of snapping members or prongs that are configured to mate with corresponding snapping members or prongs provided within the recess 122. The conduit 96 also may be secured to the cushion 72 by an interference or friction fit. In other embodiments, the cushion 72 can be formed without a recess and the conduit 96 can be attached to the cushion 72, preferably using one of the above-noted ways.
  • [0054]
    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.
  • [0055]
    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 FIG. 10, the substantially stationary component of the fluid system 94 comprises an outlet port 124. The fluid system 94 is coupled to the frame 90 through a bracket 126 provided on the fluid system 94 and, consequently, the outlet port 124 of the fluid system 94 is substantially stationary with respect to the rear side 56 of the backrest 34.
  • [0056]
    As best seen in FIG. 10, in the illustrated embodiment, the outlet port 124 is configured to fit at least partially within the inlet port 104. In this manner, the fluid system 94 is placed in fluid communication with the fluid passage 108 of the conduit 96 and the fluid distribution system 76 described above. The outlet port 124 may be secured to the inlet port 104 in any of a variety of manners. In the illustrated embodiment, the inlet and outlet ports 104, 124 are provided with corresponding annular bosses 128 a, 128 b, which are supported within the openings defined by the ports 104, 124 by a pair of circular support members 130 a, 130 b that extend from the inner surfaces of the ports 104, 124. A fastener (not shown) may extend through the annular bosses 128 a, 128 b to align and secure the ports 104, 124 to each other. In modified embodiments, adhesives, tape, external or internal fasteners (e.g., clips) and the like may be used in combination or in the alternative. In other embodiments, one end of the body 98 can be directly coupled to the rear side 56 of the backrest 34 or to the fluid system 94. For example, the body 98 can be directly coupled to the fluid system 94, thereby eliminating the corresponding ports.
  • [0057]
    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 may be 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.
  • [0058]
    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 FIGS. 9A and 9B, the outlet end 102 of the conduit 96 can move in response to the movement of the lumbar region 62 while the inlet end 100 remains attached to the relatively stationary components of the climate control apparatus 38, which can lie within a fixed plane as by the reference line 1.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 10 illustrates another advantage of the illustrated embodiment. As shown, the conduit 96 extends through an opening 132 formed in the support member 88 of the adjustable lumbar support device 36. By extending the conduit 96 through at least a portion of the lumbar support device 36, the fluid system 94 can be located generally behind the adjustable lumbar support device 36. This reduces the length of the ducting between the fluid system 94 and the distribution system 76 resulting in less pumping losses. In some embodiments, the fluid system 94 may be distanced from the rear side 56 of the backrest 34. For example, the fluid system 94 may be placed under the seat 32. In such an embodiment, an intermediate duct may direct fluid to the distribution system. The length of such an intermediate duct is shorted by positioning the inlet passage 78 in the lumbar region 62 and permitting the conduit 96 to extend through at least a portion of the lumbar support device 36.
  • [0060]
    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.
  • [0061]
    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.
  • [0062]
    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.
  • [0063]
    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.
  • [0064]
    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.
  • [0065]
    FIGS. 11-14 illustrate a modified embodiment of the conduit 96 described above. Reference numerals used to refer to components in FIGS. 11-14 correspond to those used for earlier components except that a prime (′) symbol has been added. Similarly, the numbered components are substantially the same as those in alternative embodiments, except where differences are described.
  • [0066]
    The conduit 96′ has first, inlet and second, outlet ends 100′, 102′ connecting a fluid passage 108′. The inlet end 100′ forms a first fluid port 104′ and the outlet end 102′ forms a second fluid port 106′. In the illustrated embodiment, the fluid passage 108′ has a generally oval shape. The first and second ends 100′, 102′ generally match the shape of the fluid passage 108′. In some embodiments, the first port 104′ and second port 106′ have the same shape, and in other embodiments, the ports 104′, 106′ have dissimilar shapes. Additionally, the ports 104′, 106′ can individually or together have the same general shape as the fluid passage 108′, or any one of the components can have a unique shape or size.
  • [0067]
    The second fluid port 106′ can terminate in a flange 120′. The flange 120′ can be sized or shaped to be received in a corresponding recess formed or cut in the seat cushion (not shown). The flange 120′ can be formed integrally with the second fluid port 106′, or the port 106′ can be coupled to the flange 120′. The coupling can be achieved with a cement, glue, epoxy, or other joining material or method such as a plastic molding process. In some embodiments, the flange 120′ and second port 106′ can be connected by an interference fit. In some embodiments, the first fluid port 104′ can preferably comprise a mating face 200. The mating face 200 can extend out from around the first fluid port 104′ along some or all of the perimeter of the first port. In the illustrated embodiment, embodiment, the mating face 200 comprises a ring 206 in generally the shape of the first fluid port 104′ and two outwardly-extending protrusions 202. In some embodiments, the mating face 200 can have a larger or smaller ring 206 face and a larger or smaller number of protrusions 202.
  • [0068]
    Additionally, the first fluid port 104′ can comprise an engagement prong 210. In the illustrated embodiment, the prong 210 extends outwardly from a cross-beam 208 disposed across the first fluid port 104′. In some embodiments, the cross-beam 208 is oriented across the short axis of the first fluid port 104′, though in other embodiments, the cross-beam 208 may be disposed across the long axis or, in circular embodiments, connect any chord of the port.
  • [0069]
    The prong 210 can extend at least partially beyond the mating face 200, as shown in the illustrated embodiment. The prong 210 can have a single post comprising a bulbous end. In other embodiments, the prong 210 can comprise two or more extension members 212 each ending in a tab or notch. In the illustrated embodiment, the prong 210 comprises two extension members 212, each ending in an engagement tab 214.
  • [0070]
    In some embodiments, the prong 210 can engage a socketed section 130 b of the climate control apparatus 38 (see FIG. 10). The engagement prong 210 can be inserted into this generally circular socket 130 b. In the illustrated embodiment, the two extension members 212 bend slightly inward as the engagement tabs 214 pass through the socket 130 b, and return to their unbent position once the tabs 214 have passed through the socket 130 b. As the diameter of the prong 210 around the extension members 212 is generally smaller than the diameter of the prong 210 around the tabs 214, the socket 130 b can rest easily around the extension members 212. The tabs 214 can be constructed to have a tapering shape, thereby easing the passing of the tabs 214 through the socket 130 b. A skilled practitioner in the art will recognize this type of clip engagement as being generally one-way, as the engagement tabs 214 do not readily deflect inward to permit the disengagement of the prong 210 from the socket 130 b. Additionally, other shapes and types of prongs 210 can be used, as well as broader, narrower, thinner, and thicker sockets, as necessitated for firm engagement of the conduit 96′ to the climate control apparatus 38.
  • [0071]
    In some embodiments, the socket engagement 130 b extends the length of the transfer members 212, resulting in a tight engagement between the conduit 96′ and the climate control apparatus 38. In some embodiments, the socket 130 b extends only slightly, or partially, along the extension members 212, and the conduit 96′ can have greater movement relative to the climate control device.
  • [0072]
    Preferably, the conduit 96′ tightly engages the climate control apparatus device, as secured by the prong 210 and socket 130 b. Accordingly, fluid transferred through the first fluid port 104′ into the fluid passage 108′ from the climate control device is generally well-confined, with little to none of the fluid leaking to the ambient environment. Thus, a firm seal between the climate control apparatus 38 and the conduit 96′ can be established without the use of an adhesive sealing method or material. Additionally, the manufacturing of the conduits 96′ can be adapted to connect the conduit 96′ to the climate control apparatus 38 without a glue or adhesive, thereby reducing the complexity and cost of manufacturing. Differently-shaped conduits 96′ can also be produced; however, as long as the first fluid port 104′ and mating face 200 remain consistent, differently-shaped conduits 96′ adapted to different seats can be connected to a standard-shaped climate control apparatus 38. Similarly, different climate control apparatuses 38 can connect to each conduit 96′ with a standard-sized mating face 200 and first fluid port 104′. Additionally, an adapter can be connected between the first fluid port 104′ and the climate control apparatus 38, enabling incongruently-sized components to properly confine and transport fluid from the apparatus 38 to the fluid passage 108′.
  • [0073]
    With reference now to FIG. 11 a, a front surface of the flange 120′ can include one or more hook and loop, burr or touch fasteners 220 (i.e., Velcro™), which have a corresponding part formed on a portion of the seat assembly. In the illustrated embodiment, a pair of fasteners 220 is provided on opposite sides of the opening 102′. Accordingly, in one embodiment of use, the touch fasteners 220 can be used to couple the flange 120 to the seat assembly while the prong 210 described above can be used to couple the conduit 96′ to the outlet 100 of the climate control apparatus 38. In this manner, the conduit 96′ can be used to connect the climate control apparatus 38 to the fluid distribution system 76 with no tools. Advantageously, the protrusions 202 can be used to grip the conduit 96 as the prong 210 is inserted into the socket 130 b of the climate control apparatus 38. It should be appreciated that the touch fasteners 220 and/or prong 210 features can also be used in a conduit that does not include the bellows arrangement described.
  • [0074]
    In a modified embodiment, in addition to or as an the alternative to the touch fasteners 220, the flange 120′ and/or the second fluid port 106 can be configured to provide a mechanical fit between the conduit and the ventilation system. The mechanical fit can be provided by a press fit and/or interlocking components (e.g., prongs and recesses). For example, in one embodiment, the foam which forms the cushion of the seat can be modified such that the second port 106 can be press fit and/or snap fit directly into the cushion of the seat assembly.
  • [0075]
    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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Classifications
U.S. Classification297/180.12, 297/180.15
International ClassificationA47C7/72
Cooperative ClassificationA47C7/74, A47C7/72
European ClassificationA47C7/72, A47C7/74
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 31, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: AMERIGON, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:DONG, HANH;LOFY, JOHN;MARQUETTE, DAVID;REEL/FRAME:019626/0495;SIGNING DATES FROM 20070606 TO 20070627