Title:
Arm rest using vertical lapped fiber
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An arm rest for furniture or other chair or seating applications is described. The arm rest includes a cushion member, a frame component, and an optional covering or protective layer. In certain applications, the arm rest is formed from a vertically lapped fibrous batt.



Inventors:
York, Julie L. (Byron Center, MI, US)
Wolters, Gary W. (Zeeland, MI, US)
Assink, Kenneth (Holland, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/589587
Publication Date:
07/05/2007
Filing Date:
10/30/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/54
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
EDELL, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS INC. (3600 WEST LAKE AVENUE, PATENT DEPARTMENT, GLENVIEW, IL, 60025, US)
Claims:
1. An arm rest adapted for use in a chair or furniture component, the arm rest comprising: a frame member; and a cushion member disposed on the frame member, the cushion member having first and second oppositely directed faces; wherein the cushion member includes a region of vertically lapped fibers, the region extending generally across a face of the cushion member, at least a majority of the fibers in the region extending in a direction generally transverse to the face of the cushion member.

2. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the fibers in the region of vertically lapped fibers have a size of from 0.9 to 300 denier.

3. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the region of vertically lapped fibers is used at a thickness so as to exhibit a weight of from about 100 g/m2 to about 2000 g/m2.

4. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the region of vertically lapped fibers includes from about 10% to about 100% of the total weight of fibers in the cushion member.

5. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the region of vertically lapped fibers comprises: from about 5% to about 95% of a first fiber, and from about 95% to about 5% of a second fiber having a melting point less than that of the first fiber.

6. The arm rest of claim 5 wherein the first fiber is used in a proportion of about 60% and the second fiber is used in a proportion of about 40%.

7. The arm rest of claim 5 wherein the first fiber has a size of from about 0.9 denier to about 300 denier.

8. The arm rest of claim 5 wherein the second fiber has a size of from about 2 denier to about 15 denier.

9. The arm rest of claim 5 wherein the cushion member has a thickness of from about 0.5 cm to about 7.6 cm.

10. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the frame member comprises: from about 30% to about 100% of a binder polymer; and from about 70% to about 0% of a matrix fiber.

11. The arm rest of claim 10 wherein the frame member comprises about 70% of the binder polymer and about 30% of the matrix fiber.

12. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the arm rest generally defines first and second major sides, and first and second minor sides, and wherein three of these four sides are convex in shape.

13. The arm rest of claim 12 wherein a remaining side of the four sides is concave in shape.

14. The arm rest of claim 1, wherein the arm rest defines an upwardly facing surface that is convex.

15. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the frame member includes a first substrate and a second substrate.

16. The arm rest of claim 1 further comprising: a covering layer disposed on the cushion member.

17. The arm rest of claim 16 wherein the covering layer includes a nonwoven material.

18. The arm rest of claim 1 wherein the cushion member also includes a second region of a cushioning material, disposed adjacent to the region of vertically lapped fibers.

19. An arm rest defining a first convex side, a second convex side opposite from the first side, a third convex side extending between the first and second sides, and a fourth concave side extending between the first and second sides and opposite the third side, the arm rest comprising a region of vertically lapped fibers, the region extending generally across a face of the arm rest, at least a majority of the fibers in the region extending in a direction generally transverse to the face of the arm rest.

20. The arm rest of claim 19 wherein the fiber of the region of vertically lapped fibers has a size of from 0.9 to 300 denier.

21. The arm rest of claim 19 wherein the region of vertically lapped fibers comprises: from about 5% to about 95% of a first fiber, and from about 95% to about 5% of a second fiber having a melting point less than that of the first fiber.

22. The arm rest of claim 19 wherein the arm rest includes a frame member which comprises: from about 30% to about 100% of a binder polymer; and from about 70% to about 0% of a matrix fiber.

23. The arm rest of claim 22 wherein the arm rest further includes a cushion member disposed on the frame member, the cushion member has a thickness of from about 0.5 cm to about 7.6 cm.

24. The arm rest of claim 23 further comprising: a covering layer disposed on the cushion member.

25. The arm rest of claim 23 wherein the cushion member also includes a second region of a cushioning material, disposed adjacent to the region of vertically lapped fibers.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority upon U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/755,551, filed Dec. 30, 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an improved arm rest member, particularly adapted for use with chairs and seating units used in association with office furniture.

Numerous designs have been proposed for various support members for chairs and seating units. Often, such designs attempt to balance competing goals of providing a support member that is comfortable and yet, one which provides excellent durability and service life. Although various materials of construction for furniture and the like have been identified and extensively tested, there remains a need for yet other combinations of materials and unique techniques for forming furniture support members.

Much attention has been directed to seat members and cushions since these members support the majority of a user's weight, and are often the first components of a seating unit to exhibit wear or loss of initial cushioning characteristics. However, another class of furniture support members that are subjected to wear, are arm rests. Arm rests often are subjected to repeated and prolonged compressive stress, as users lean or otherwise place their weight upon such members. It is also significant that loss of initial cushioning function is a problem associated with many arm rests. Accordingly, there remains a need for an improved design for an arm rest member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In a first aspect, the present invention provides an arm rest adapted for use in a chair or furniture component. The arm rest comprises a frame member and a cushion member disposed on the frame member. The cushion member has first and second oppositely directed faces. The cushion member includes a region of vertically lapped fibers. The region extends generally across a face of the cushion member. At least a majority of the fibers in the region extend in a direction generally transverse to the face of the cushion member.

In yet another aspect, the present invention provides an arm rest defining a first convex side, a second convex side opposite from the first side, a third convex side extending between the first and second sides, and a fourth concave side extending between the first and second sides and opposite the third side. The arm rest comprises a region of vertically lapped fibers. The region extends generally across a face of the arm rest. At least a majority of the fibers in the region extend in a direction generally transverse to the face of the arm rest.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be described in detail with several preferred embodiments and illustrated, merely by way of example and not with intent to limit the scope thereof, in the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a top planar view of a preferred arm rest member according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a bottom planar view of the preferred arm rest member.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the preferred arm rest member.

FIG. 4 is an end view of the preferred arm rest member.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the preferred arm rest member, illustrating a side opposite that of the side shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the preferred arm rest member.

FIG. 7 is another view of the bottom of the preferred arm rest member.

FIG. 8 is a schematic cross section of a preferred arm rest member illustrating a preferred combination of components.

FIG. 9 is a schematic cross section of a preferred arm rest member illustrating a preferred combination of components.

FIG. 10 is a schematic cross section of a preferred arm rest member illustrating a preferred combination of components.

FIG. 11 is a schematic cross section of a preferred arm rest member illustrating a preferred combination of components.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The preferred embodiment arm rest member according to the present invention is formed from a particular material, and fashioned in such a manner that a unique combination of properties relating to both comfort and durability are achieved. The preferred embodiment arm rest using the materials of construction described herein, can also feature the particular shape and configuration as shown in the referenced figures. These and other aspects are described in greater detail herein.

The preferred embodiment arm rest member comprises a frame component, a cushion member disposed upon or otherwise formed about the frame component, and an optional, however preferred, layer of a protective or decorative cover overlaying at least the cushion member.

Preferably, the cushion member is a unified or monolithic member and preferably includes a matrix fiber component, a cellulose fiber component, and a binder polymer that serves as an adhesive to bind the components together. The cushion member may also include various fillers and additional materials as well. The various components are assembled and melt-bonded together to form a finished member.

The matrix fiber for use in the cushion member provides structure and strength characteristics. The matrix fiber is preferably a high melting point polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or another thermoplastic. Any thermoplastic used as the matrix fiber should preferably have a melting point higher than the temperatures used in the molding of the cushion member as described below. That is, while it is acceptable for the matrix fiber used in the present invention to become soft during the molding process, it should not melt to the extent of becoming a molten component or losing its structure completely. More than one type of matrix fiber may be used in the construction of the cushion member. Alternately or in addition to the thermoplastic fiber, natural fibers could be used such as sisal, jute, kenaf, coconut fiber, pulp, or hemp.

The cellulose fiber of the preferred embodiment cushion member is used to provide mass and shape to the member as well as contribute to its fire resistance. To increase its fire resistance, the cellulose is treated with a fire retardant in an amount necessary to render it nonflammable. Suitable fire retardants include, but are not limited to, boric acid and/or sodium polyborate. Suitable treated cellulose fiber for use in the present invention includes NU-WOOL®, available from Nu-Wool Co., Inc. and boron cellulose available under the tradename THERMOLOK INCIDE from Hamilton Mfg. Inc. The cellulose fiber preferably constitutes from about 40 to about 70% by weight of the cushion member, more preferably 45 to 55%.

The binder polymer of the cushion member acts as an adhesive and binder to bond the matrix fiber and cellulose fiber together and lock the fibers into position. Thus, the binder polymer will at least partially melt during the molding process. The binder polymer can be any recyclable fiber having this characteristic, such as polyester, PET, polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon, PLA and acrylic. Preferably, the binder polymer is a polyester having a melting point of about 100° C. During the process, the binder polymer at least partially melts and becomes flowable, penetrating between the matrix fibers and the cellulose fibers to bond them together. Upon cooling, the binder polymer solidifies to form the final interior member.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the matrix fiber and the binder polymer are provided as a single bi-component blended fiber. In this bi-component fiber, the two materials may be arranged in co-axial arrangement, with an inner strand of higher melting point matrix fiber surrounded by a sheath of lower melting point binder polymer. Suitable polyester bi-component fibers for use in the present invention are commercially available under the trade designation “PET bi-component fiber” from various manufacturers. Various sized bi-component fibers may be used in the present invention arm rest members or products depending on the particular use. Although not intended to be limiting, a typical bi-fiber suitable for use in most applications of the present invention has a diameter of about 15-2 denier or smaller. When bi-component fiber is used, a preferred cushion member for the arm rest according to the present invention will contain about 30 to about 100% by weight bi-component fiber and about 0 to about 70% by weight cellulose. In any event, the amount should be enough such that the resultant member will pass ASTM E84 flame test for building materials and UL 723 test.

Most preferably, the cushion member comprises from about 30% to about 100%, and most preferably about 30% of binder polymer, and from about 0% to about 70%, and most preferably about 70% matrix fiber. Upon formation, the cushion member has a loft of from about 0.20 inches to about 3.0 inches and preferably about 0.500.

The covering of the preferred embodiment arm rest member may be a layer made from any decorative membrane, including fiber and non-fiber materials and woven and non-woven materials. Additional filler materials may also be added to enhance strength or other panel characteristics, such materials including, but not limited to, various thermoplastics such as polyester, co-polyester, and nylon; natural materials such as sisal, hemp, cotton and flax; or other materials such as ceramic powder, fire-retardant materials, or metal mesh. Specialized additives may also be added to improve certain properties of the finished cushion member, including but not limited to, pesticides, anti-microbial additives, ammonia dust inhibitors, stabilizers, and water repellants.

The frame component of the preferred embodiment arm rest member can be formed using the same techniques as for the cushion member. It may be desirable to form the frame component with a greater density and thus rigidity, than the cushion member. The frame component preferably comprises from about 30% to about 100%, and most preferably about 70% of the binder polymer, and from about 0% to about 70%, and most preferably about 30% of the matrix fiber. However, the previously noted fabrication techniques for the cushion member are generally directly applicable for forming the frame component.

Although the frame component may be in a variety of different shapes, configurations, and dimensions, preferably the frame component is generally planar with a thickness of about 0.10 inch (about 0.25 cm) to about 0.010 inch (about 0.025 cm) thick, and most preferably about 0.050 inch (about 0.125 cm) thick.

The resulting arm rest member may be constructed using a conventional carding line and cross lapper in various arrangements. For convenience, a representative process will be described using a polyester bi-component fiber, cellulose and a finish layer only. As stated above, however, various other processes and materials may be used to make the cushion member and frame component. The bi-component fiber is introduced on a garnett or carding machine, which straightens and parallelizes the loosened bi-component fiber to form a web of parallel, crimped fibers. As the bi-component fiber web exits the carding machine, the treated cellulose fiber is spread out over the top of the web. Any additional additives, such as pesticides, may be added at this stage or prior to the forming of the web. The resulting cellulose covered web is then directed through a cross lapper, to build up the web into a batt and to integrate the cellulose with the bi-component fiber. The resulting batt is cut to length and then heated, in an oven to melt the outer sheath of the bi-component fiber (the binder polymer) and cause it to intimately blend the cellulose and the inner strand of the bi-component fiber (the matrix fiber). This provides a “through-bonded” batt that not only bonds the components of the member, but also seals the surface of the batt against leakage. Any conventional carding machine and cross lapper may be used in this process. A suitable cross lapper is Crosslapper model CL-OC available from Technoplants. Additionally, other known processes for forming batts may be used, such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,974,631 and 6,276,028, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.

The batts are heated to a point where the binder polymer transitions from a solid state to a liquid state. Although the temperature at which the batts are heated will therefore vary depending on the composition of the matrix fiber and binder polymer, a typical heating cycle using a polyester bi-component fiber include heating the batts to about 150° F. to about 375° F. Some of the binder polymer fibers may liquefy while others remain in a transition or gel-like condition. Thus, the batt becomes soft and pliable, yet can still be handled because the matrix fiber and cellulose retain enough of the batt structure. If the batts are to be molded into specific shapes to form a finished cushion member, the batts are transferred by a conveyor from the oven to a bonding press. If a finish layer is to be used in the manufacture of the cushion member, it is transferred, from a fabric carousel or other dispenser to the bonding press at this stage. The finish layer is mated and aligned with the hot batt and the press is then closed, capturing and pressing the finish layer to bond it to and embed it in the batt.

Regardless of whether a finish layer is used, the bonding press is closed and the batt is pressed, between the mold halves or dies of the press. The batt, still hot from the oven, assumes the shape of the interior of the press. The binder polymer may further transition to a molten state at this time due to the pressure of the press. The molten binder polymer flows throughout the mold cavity and binds the cellulose and matrix fibers together. If a finish layer is used, the molten material is also pressed into this layer, so it becomes at least partially embedded in the batt.

The mold halves or dies are preferably temperature controlled below the melting temperature of the binder polymer. Thus the oven heats the batt and the pressure of the closed mold in the press shapes the batt before the transfer of heat from the batt to the dies sets the batt in a solid state.

As discussed above, the binder polymer preferably at least partially melts to become a molten material during the heating in the oven. However, it preferably remains viscous rather than free-flowing. Thus, the binder polymer will only flow throughout the mold cavity when the press closes the mold and pressure is applied to the batt. Because of this, the final cushion member of the preferred arm rest may have localized areas of relatively higher material density, and associated greater material toughness, where the added batt material was originally placed in the mold.

The cushion member may be constructed using a single batt or a combination of different batts having different compositions. Thus, a manufacturer can make cushion members having customized structures and properties based on a user's requirements. The combining of different batts allows a fabricator to tailor the characteristics of the resulting cushion member by positioning strata of component materials within the resulting cushion member. For example, a second batt comprised of a blend including a filler material may be used with a first batt to introduce and position a stratum of filler material into the resulting cushion member. The second batt may be assembled using the same process described above, with an exception that fibers of a filler material are included in the blend. The first and second batts may be introduced to each other before or after they are heated in the oven. Preferably, the two batts are introduced prior to heating, so that they may become at least partially bonded together during heating by the melting and diffusion of the binder polymer between the two batts.

As noted, it should be realized that a cushion member of the invention may be constructed with various alternative “lay-ups” of different fiber and filler layers and multiple batts prior to molding in the bonding press. By selecting different components for use in the batt or a multiple number of batts or by changing the thickness of each batt, one may alter the stiffness, toughness, acoustics and other characteristics of the resulting cushion member. For example, strength and other characteristics may be enhanced with the use of metal or ceramic fibers added to the batt. A rigid support structure, such as a metal mesh or foil, may be embedded in the cushion member for additional strength by including the structure in the batt or web lay-up.

Structural characteristics of the cushion member or the frame component may also be controlled by adjustment of the material density and the mold pressure. For a given amount of material, a defined mold cavity volume will result in a particular material density. With a constant mold cavity volume, increasing the amount of material in the batt will increase the resulting density in the final cushion member. A cushion member or frame component with a relatively higher material density will exhibit a greater toughness that resists puncturing. Conversely, decreasing the amount of material in the batt will produce a cushion member with a relatively lower material density, resulting in a lighter, less tough cushion member susceptible to puncturing and the insertion of pins and the like. Thus, for example, a cushion member of the invention can be made to be a fully tackable member by reducing the resulting material density appropriately.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, either one or both of the cushion members and the frame component are formed from a nonwoven mat or batt of vertically lapped fibers. Such batts are commercially available such as for example, from Structured Fibres, Inc., of Saltillo, Miss. Another source of commercially available vertically lapped nonwoven fabrics, is Struto International, Inc., of Kings Mountain, N.C. Batts of vertically lapped fibers are unique because they include a significant proportion of fibers that extend in a vertical direction, i.e. in a direction generally transverse to the plane of the batt. Preferably, at least a majority proportion of the fibers in a mat or batt, extend in such a vertical direction. More specifically, it is preferred that for the fibers extending in a generally vertical direction, i.e. approximately transverse to the plane of the mat, at least 50% of the fiber length extends in such vertical direction. More preferably, at least 90% of the fiber length of such fibers extends in this direction. And, most preferably, at least 95% of the fiber length of such fibers extends in such direction. It will be appreciated that these are aspects of the mat prior to any compression or thermoforming. Batts featuring such a fiber orientation are able to provide a firmness generally not possible using a batt with a traditional horizontal orientation. Preferably, the vertically extending fibers are retained in position, within the mat, by an effective amount of a binder polymer, such as a lower melting point polyethylene. General background information as to manufacturing batts with significant proportions of vertically extending fibers is found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,618,364 and 7,011,181; both of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

As described in greater detail herein, batts of vertically lapped fibers are particularly useful in seating and arm pad applications. Vertically lapped fiber batts can be formed to provide components having the firmness characteristics such as typically required for arm pads and certain seating applications. Seating and arm pads can be formed from the batts of vertical lapped fibers. Seating and arm pad under-supports can also be formed from the vertically lapped fibers and can be used between a frame member and a covering layer.

The preferred embodiment arm rests, arm rest member, and other like components described herein can include one or more layers of a mat or batt of vertically lapped fibers. Generally, any type of fiber can be used, including synthetic fibers and natural fibers and combinations thereof. A wide array of fiber sizes can be used, such as from 0.9 to about 300 denier. The resulting web or mat weight can range from about 100 g/m2 to about 2000 g/m2. If blends of fibers are used, as previously noted, thermobondable fibers can be used, such as from about 10 to about 100% of the total weight of fibers in the mat.

Preferably, the batt of vertically lapped fibers comprises a particular blend of fibers as follows. From about 5% to about 95% of a first fiber, or matrix fiber, and from about 95% to about 5% of a second fiber having a melting point less than the first fiber are used. Preferably, about 60% of the first fiber and about 40% of the second fiber are utilized. These percentages are percentages of the particular fiber based upon the total weight of the batt. The first fiber can be in a range of sizes, such as from about 0.9 denier to about 300 denier, with 15 denier being preferred. The second fiber can also be in a range of sizes, such as from about 2 denier to about 15 denier with 4 denier being preferred. The length of the second fiber is preferably from about 1 inch to about 3 inches, with 2 inches being preferred. The length of the first fiber is generally dictated by end use requirements.

The particular percentages or proportions of each of the first and second fibers in the batt of vertically lapped fibers can vary depending upon the characteristics desired for the final arm rest product. Generally, the greater the proportion of the second fiber, i.e. the low melting point fiber, the firmer the resulting arm rest. Conversely, a softer cushion can be formed by using less of the second fiber. Rebound characteristics of the cushion can also be improved by decreasing the proportion of the second fiber.

The covering layer of the preferred arm rest can be formed in a three-dimensional shape to mate with and conform to the upper facing surface of the arm rest. As previously noted, in one embodiment, the covering material is made of a non-woven material, and can include without limitation thermoplastics, polyester, co-polyester, polypropylene, nylon, polyethylene, or combinations thereof. For example, one suitable non-woven material is available from Western Nonwovens, Los Angeles, Calif. The finish, e.g. fabric, is bonded to the moldable material substrate with an adhesive, for example and without limitation a powder adhesive, including for example, and without limitation a co-polyester resin available from EMS-Griltech, S.C. Alternatively, the fabric is simply embedded into the moldable material substrate. In certain embodiments, the overall pad preferably has a thickness of 0.10 inches (0.25 cm) to about 0.75 inches (1.9 cm), or 0.20 inches (0.5 cm) to about 3.0 inches (7.6 cm) and in one embodiment is about 0.25 inches (0.66 cm) when covering the back and about 0.50 inches (1.3 cm) when covering the seat. The pad is relatively thin, such that it is flexible and can flex and conform to the underlying arm rest structure.

When forming a cushion member of the arm rest from the previously described nonwoven batt of vertically lapped fibers, a preferred method is as follows. The cushion can be formed by employing a modified thermoforming process in which a heated tool is used to compress and create select regions of varying strength and rigidity within the cushion member of the arm rest. These techniques are also useful in forming the frame component. In many applications, these techniques will be utilized in particular, when forming the frame component of the preferred embodiment arm rest. The tool serves to emboss or compress the fiber batt in only desired regions. The tooling is configured such that it controls the areas at which embossing occurs. Those regions of the batt which are not contacted by the heated tool retain their cushioning characteristic.

As noted, the tool is heated. Although the particular temperature of the tool varies depending upon the specific materials in the batt, and primarily with regard to the second fiber, an approximate temperature range for the tool is from about 150° F. to about 375° F. and preferably about 200° F. to about 325° F. It will be appreciated that if lower temperatures are to be used for the heated tool, the holding times can be increased to promote heat transfer from the tool to the batt and fibers therein. Generally, exemplary heating hold times are in the range of from about 60 seconds to about 90 seconds. However, it will be appreciated that the present invention includes the use of shorter or longer hold times.

During application of the heated tool to the nonwoven batt of vertically lapped fibers, it is preferred to apply the tool with a compressive force, onto the batt. Generally, such pressures range from about 15 psi to about 25 psi. Again, the present invention includes the use of greater or lesser pressures.

FIG. 1 is a top planar view of a preferred embodiment arm rest 10 according to the present invention. FIG. 1 illustrates an upper surface 60 extending between a first major side 20 and a second oppositely extending second major side 30. Each of the first and second major sides 20 and 30 extend between a first minor side 40, and a second opposite minor side 50. It will be noted that three of these four sides are generally convex in shape, i.e. sides 20, 40, and 50. Side 30 is preferably concave. This arrangement provides a unique configuration for the preferred arm rest 10.

FIG. 2 is a bottom planar view of the preferred embodiment arm rest member 10. FIG. 2 illustrates the lower surface 70 of arm rest 10. FIG. 2 also depicts one or more optional depressions and/or projections that may be formed along the underside of the arm rest member 10. The depressions and projections may facilitate engagement between the arm rest member 10 and a support structure (not shown) such as a chair or other seating member. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, the lower surface 70 defines a depression which in turn is defined by wall 82 and planar surface 84. The depression defined by wall 82 and surface 84, is defined near major side 30. A smaller depression 86 is defined along minor side 50. It will be appreciated that the present invention includes a wide array of other combinations of one or more depressions and/or one or more projections defined along the underside of the arm rest 10.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the preferred embodiment arm rest member 10. FIG. 3 illustrates in greater detail the second major side 30 of the arm rest which is preferably concave. FIG. 3 also illustrates the convex configuration of the upwardly facing surface 60 as surface 60 extends between the sides 40 and 50.

FIG. 4 illustrates in greater detail the second minor side 50. The upper surface 60 can also be seen to be convex as it extends between the first and second major sides 20 and 30.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the preferred embodiment arm rest member 10 illustrating side 20 which is opposite that of the side shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment arm rest member 10.

FIG. 7 is another view of the bottom surface 70 of the preferred embodiment arm rest member 10. FIG. 7 also illustrates an optional wall outwardly projecting from the bottom surface 70. The wall includes sections 72, 74, 76, and 78 that extend proximate with sides 20, 30, 40, and 50, respectively. The wall may serve to promote alignment of the arm rest 10 with an engagement member of a chair, and/or increase the rigidity or strength of the member 10.

In alternative embodiments, the cushion member is secured to the frame component with adhesives, mechanical fasteners such as screws and the like, or combinations thereof.

FIGS. 8-11 are schematic cross sections of various preferred embodiment arm rests according to the present invention. These schematic cross sections are generally taken across the width of the depicted arm rest. As will be recalled, the preferred arm rests generally comprise a frame component, a cushion member, and an optional protective or decorative cover overlaying at least the cushion member. Specifically, FIG. 8 illustrates a preferred embodiment arm rest 100 comprising a frame 110 and a cushion member 150. The frame 110 preferably has a uniform or constant thickness across its width and length. The cushion member 150, in contrast, has a thickness that varies across its width, and possibly, also over its length.

FIG. 9 illustrates a schematic cross section of another preferred arm rest 200. Arm rest 200 comprises a bi-layer frame component including a first substrate 210 and a second substrate 220. Either or both of these substrates are formed from the materials noted herein for forming the frame. Alternately, either or both of these frame substrates can be formed from other materials known in the art. The arm rest 200 also comprises a cushion member 250. Preferably, each of the frame substrates 210 and 220 have a generally uniform and constant thickness, whereas in contrast, the cushion member 250 features a varying thickness.

FIG. 10 illustrates another preferred embodiment arm rest 300 comprising a bi-layer frame including a first substrate 310 and a second substrate 320. The arm rest 300 also includes a cushion 350. The thickness of one or both of the substrates 310 and 320 may be constant, or may vary, as depicted in FIG. 10.

FIG. 11 illustrates yet another preferred embodiment arm rest 400. The arm rest 400 comprises a frame 410, a cushion 450, and a cover layer 460 extending about the cushion 450 and portions of the frame 410.

It will be appreciated that all of the arm rest embodiments described herein can utilize one, two, three or more substrates or layers for the frame; one or more layers or members for the cushion; and one or more cover layers.

All of the previously described cushion members, i.e. 150, 250, 350, and 450 include one or more regions of vertically lapped fibers. These regions, as described herein, preferably extend across a face of the arm rest, or across the width or length of the arm rest.

The preferred arm rest embodiment using a nonwoven batt of vertically lapped fibers can be utilized in other forms and applications, and is not necessarily limited as described herein. For example, after suitable embossing and/or compression using the heated tools as described herein, the resulting cushions (formed from a nonwoven batt of vertically lapped fibers) can receive a frame component formed about the cushion by injection molding. Alternately, the preferred cushions can be attached to a substrate or other surface by one or more mechanical fasteners. In addition, the cushions can be attached by welding heat, or adhesive strategies. Sonic welding, spin weld fasteners, or heat staked fasteners can be used.

The various arm rests described herein can be used in a variety of different applications. For example, the arm rests can be used in outdoor furniture, stadium seating, heavy equipment seating, bus seating, train seating, public transportation seating, motorcycle seating, recreational vehicle seating, off-road vehicle seating, agricultural equipment seating, and the like. Another application for which the arm rests described herein can be used, is boating and related marine uses.

The arm pad and its various embodiments as described herein, is preferably formed from materials that are recyclable. Many of the compositions including cellulose as described herein are recyclable, and provide a significant advantage over conventional foamed arm pads, or arm pads utilizing foamed cushioning members. Many conventional foamed members are difficult to recycle, and produce undesirable by-products that increase the cost of recycling or disposal. Accordingly, the arm pads as described herein, and particularly those that are readily recyclable, provide a significant advantage over currently known arm pads.

The invention has been described with reference to the preferred embodiments. Obviously, modifications and alterations will occur to others upon a reading and understanding of this specification. The invention is intended to include all such modifications and alterations.