Title:
VEHICLE SEATING ORTHOTIC SYSTEM AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis for vehicle is provided which provides back support to a vehicle occupant is disclosed. A vehicle occupant has a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis prepared which represents a cast of his back. The device is placed within a pocket formed in a seat back cover. The original seat back cover is removed from the vehicle and is replaced with the seat back cover having the personalized thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis built in. As an alternative, a vehicle seat back cover having a forward-facing pocket is provided by the manufacturer as original equipment. A seat occupant may optionally have a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis prepared and may slip the device into the forward-facing pocket. However, the seat having the forward-facing pocket may be fully functional without a device being provided in the forward-facing pocket.



Inventors:
Himmel IV, Joseph A. (Livonia, MI, US)
Nunez, Steven W. (South Lyon, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/871362
Publication Date:
04/16/2009
Filing Date:
10/12/2007
Assignee:
FORD GLOBAL TECHNOLOGIES, LLC (Dearborn, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/40
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
NELSON JR, MILTON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Jerome R. Drouillard (10213 Tims Lake Blvd., Grass Lake, MI, 49240, US)
Claims:
1. A seat back system for providing personalized back support to an occupant, the seat back system comprising: a vehicle seat having a seat back and a seat base; a cover provided over said vehicle seat back, said cover having an orthotic device-receiving pocket formed therein; an orthotic device fitted within said orthotic device-receiving pocket; and supplemental padded material fitted within said pocket and around the orthotic device to substantially fill out said pocket.

2. The seat back system of claim 1 in which said orthotic device is formed from a substantially rigid polymerized material.

3. The seat back system of claim 1 in which said cover is a replacement cover.

4. The seat back system of claim 1 wherein said orthotic device is substantially a positive cast of a portion of an occupant's back configuration.

5. (canceled)

6. The seat back system of claim 1 in which said supplemental padded material is a foamed polymerized material.

7. The seat back system of claim 1 wherein said seat back cover includes an inside and wherein said pocket is formed on said inside of said seat back cover.

8. The seat back system of claim 1 wherein said seat back cover includes an outside and wherein said pocket is formed on said outside of said seat back cover.

9. An orthotic seat back cover assembly placeable over a seat back of a vehicle and usable by a seat occupant, the orthotic seat back cover assembly comprising: an orthotic device for providing selective support to the back of the occupant; a seat back cover having an inside and an outside; a pocket for receiving said orthotic device; and supplemental padded material fitted within said pocket and around the orthotic device to substantially fill out said pocket.

10. The orthotic seat back cover assembly of claim 9 in which said orthotic device is formed from a substantially rigid polymerized material.

11. The orthotic seat back cover assembly of claim 10 in which said cover is a replacement cover.

12. The orthotic seat back cover assembly of claim 10 wherein said orthotic device is substantially a mirror image of a portion of an occupant's back configuration.

13. (canceled)

14. The orthotic seat back cover assembly of claim 9 in which said supplemental padded material is a foamed polymerized material.

15. The orthotic seat back cover assembly of claim 10 wherein said pocket is formed on said inside of said cover.

16. (canceled)

17. A method of preparing a seat back having an orthotic device for use in a vehicle, the method comprising the steps of: forming a seat back cover having an orthotic device-receiving pocket; forming an orthotic device based on a profile of at least a portion of an occupant's back; and inserting the orthotic device into said orthotic device-receiving pocket of said seat back.

18. The method of preparing a seat back according to claim 17 including the step of: replacing the original seat back cover of the vehicle with said seat back cover having said orthotic device-receiving pocket.

19. The method of preparing a seat back according to claim 18, including the step of: providing a seat back cover having an outside and forming said orthotic device-receiving pocket on said outside of said seat back cover.

20. The method of preparing a seat back cover according to claim 19 including the step of: providing padding around said orthotic device within said orthotic device-receiving pocket.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention disclosed herein relates generally to orthotic devices for vehicles. More particularly, the invention disclosed herein relates to a system for a vehicle which provides a personalized orthotic device which can be inserted into a seat cover.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In the early days of automotive vehicles the vehicle seats provided little comfort to the vehicle occupant. Early vehicle seat backs, in fact, did not use seat springs, but instead were only piled material covered with leather. Later seat backs used springs, but for many years only the seat style and type of covering material changed, with coil springs being used in automotive applications for decades.

Recognizing that many drivers required back support to compensate for back pain brought on through disease, injury or age, some auto seat suppliers began to offer specific types of focused back relief in the form of supplemental lumbar support. Some supports were adjustable by the user. These types of lumbar support mechanisms are embodied in fluid bladders that are connected to fluid pumps. The seat occupant can manipulate an inflator button to adjust the volume of fluid in the bladder.

While such approaches are improvements over the early days of vehicle seat backs, they still lack the personalized form of support that is needed by many seat occupants. Such support, for example, may be in the form of lower, middle, or upper back support, choices which are unavailable to most seat users.

Accordingly, a need exists today for an improved system for providing the vehicle seat occupant for maximum personalized back support while seated in a vehicle seat.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A preferred embodiment of the disclosed invention is a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis, or TLSO, for a vehicle seat. The TLSO provides personalized back support to the seat occupant. The TLSO represents a cast of the occupant's back. The device is placed within a pocket formed in the seat back cover. The original seat back cover is removed from the vehicle and is replaced with the seat back cover having the personalized TLSO built in. As an alternative, a vehicle seat back cover having a forward-facing pocket is provided by the manufacturer as original equipment. A seat occupant may optionally have an TLSO device prepared and may slip the device into the forward-facing pocket. However, the seat having the forward-facing pocket may be fully functional without a device being provided in the forward-facing pocket.

Other features of the invention will become apparent when viewed in light of the detailed description of the preferred embodiment when taken in conjunction with the attached drawings and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of this invention, reference should now be made to the embodiment illustrated in greater detail in the accompanying drawings and described below by way of examples of the invention wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a front view of an orthotic, back-supporting device or thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis, prepared for use by a particular vehicle seat occupant;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a vehicle seat having a pocket for receiving a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis shown in shadow lines position within the pocket;

FIG. 3 is a side view of a vehicle seat, shown in partial section to reveal the thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis in place within the seat back pocket and partially surrounded by foam padding; and

FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating the steps needed to provide a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis in a vehicle seat according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

In the following figures, the same reference numerals will be used to refer to the same components. In the following description, various operating parameters and components are described for one constructed embodiment. These specific parameters and components are included as examples and are not meant to be limiting.

Referring to the drawings and in particular to FIG. 1, a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis or TLSO 10 for use with a vehicle seat according to the present invention is shown. The TLSO 10 may be composed of a variety of materials, including a polymerized material. The TLSO 10 may include an anterior portion which is a standard backing and a posterior portion which is a positive mold of the occupant's back. Preparation of the thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis is made by an appropriate care facility, and is preferably prepared by an orthotist or by someone acting under the orthotist's supervision. Specifically, preparation of the TLSO 10 is made by the appropriate care provider making a cast of the occupant's back, much in the same way that in-sole orthotic devices are prepared for use in shoes. All or part of the expense related to fitting and preparing the orthotic of the disclosed invention may be entitled to reimbursement according to various health insurance plans based upon the particular insurance provider's medical billing code. This is possible in that the orthotic would most likely be viewed as being a patient-required medical device and would thus be covered by most conventional insurance plans.

The TLSO 10 is the product of a positive mold being prepared from the cast made of the occupant's back. The orthotist then modifies the positive cast based on anatomical landmarks, supporting requirements and activity level. The TLSO 10 represents the posterior portion of the occupant's back. The TLSO 10 is then fitted to the occupant for a final fit.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the TLSO 10 includes a variety of back-supporting areas, including an upper back relief and supporting region 12, a postural corrective region 14, a lower back support region 16, and a sacral support region 18. Each of these regions is built up as needed to match the particular shape of the occupant's back.

With reference to FIG. 2, a perspective view of a vehicle seat having the TLSO-receiving pocket is illustrated. The vehicle seat, generally illustrated as 20, includes a seat back 22 and a seat base 24. The seat back 22 includes a seat back cover 26. The seat cover 26 includes a TLSO-receiving pocket 28. The pocket 28 may be formed on the inside of the forward part of the seat back cover 26 or may be formed on the outside of the forward part of the seat back cover 26. If formed on the inside of the seat back cover 26, the TLSO 10 must be installed prior to fitting of the seat back cover 26 over the seat back frame. If formed on the outside of the seat back cover 26, the TLSO 10 may be slipped into the pocket 28 after the seat back cover 26 is fitted to the seat back frame. The former approach provides a fitted, original-equipment appearance while the latter approach allows for the removal and replacement of the TLSO 10 by the occupant should the seat occupant decide to occupy another seat.

Regardless of whether the pocket 28 is fitted to the inside or to the outside of the vehicle seat back cover 26, the seat back cover 26 is selected so that the model and trim style match the other vehicle seats and the vehicle interior. The front of the seat back cover 26 includes a slightly over-built area 30 on the A-surface for the TLSO to be installed.

With reference to FIG. 3, a side view of the vehicle seat 20 is illustrated showing the seat back 22 in partial section. The TLSO 10 can be seen positioned within the pocket 28 formed in the seat back cover 26. The illustrated shape of the TLSO 10 is only shown for discussion purposes as any of a variety of shapes of the TLSO 10 may be used, dependent on the particular back configuration of the occupant. As shown, the TLSO 10 is fitted within the B-surface of the trim cover.

To minimize movement and shifting of the TLSO 10 within the pocket 28, padding is provided around the TLSO 10 to substantially or fully fill out the pocket 28. The padding is provided in the form of a front padding 32 and 32′ and in the form of a back padding 34. The shapes, placement and number of front and back paddings illustrated in FIG. 3 are exemplary as a greater or lesser number of paddings having different shapes may be used. The shape and number of paddings depends upon the configuration of the TLSO 10 and may be molded in conjunction therewith. The paddings 32, 32′ and 34 may be composed of a variety of materials, although a material particularly suited for application herein would be foamed polymerized material.

Illustrated in FIG. 4 is a flow chart which sets forth the basic steps involved with preparing the system of the present invention. This is a preferred arrangement but it is envisioned that alternative arrangements may be used.

With reference to FIG. 4, at a first step, illustrated as 40, the customer/occupant obtains the proper model and trim level pocket seat back cover from the local vehicle dealership. The selected cover would have the exact design, sew style, fabric/leather patterning as the original equipment. The objective by this selection is that there would be no visual cue to the casual observer that the pocket seat back, cover differs in any way from the original equipment.

Once the selection of pocket seat back cover is made, the customer/occupant visits the orthotist with the seat back cover. This occurs at a second step, illustrated as 50 in FIG. 4. At this stage the orthotist prepares a cast of the patient's back. From this cast a positive mold is prepared. The orthotist then modifies the positive cast as set forth above, based on anatomical landmarks, supporting requirements and activity level of the patient. (This work falls in line with the other work of the orthotist who regularly provides, for example, in-sole orthoses for shoes.) The positive cast represents the posterior portion of the TLSO 10.

At a third step, illustrated as 60, the orthotist fits the TLSO 10 to the patient for a final fit. Once the proper fit is assured, the orthotist installs the orthosis in the pocket 28 of the seat back cover 26. This occurs at the fourth step, illustrated as 70. While it is possible for the TLSO 10 to be fitted by any number of specialists, it would be preferred to have the orthotist make the final insertion to guarantee a proper fit. The paddings 32, 32′ and 34 are also inserted at this time.

Thereafter, and at a fifth step, illustrated as 80 in FIG. 4, the customer/occupant returns to the dealership with the vehicle for installation of the seat back cover 26 onto the seat frame. The original seat back cover is first removed and the TLSO 10-fitted seat back cover 26 is then attached. The original seat back cover is retained by the customer/occupant for refitting when the vehicle is returned at the end of a lease or when the vehicle is sold.

As an alternative to the above method, it would be possible for a seat back cover having a TLSO-receiving pocket to be provided by the original equipment provider as optional equipment. In this way the customer/occupant can still have a personalized TLSO prepared which can then be slipped into the pocket of the original seat cover without the need to have such a cover installed on the vehicle after production.

While the invention has been described in connection with one or more embodiments, it is to be understood that the specific mechanisms and techniques which have been described are merely illustrative of the principles of the invention, numerous modifications may be made to the methods and apparatus described without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.