Title:
Universal adjustable vehicle center arm rest assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vehicle after market, bridge-type, universal ergonomic armrest assembly that is adjustable longitudinally and vertically for installation over a console while permitting access into the console. A hinged front leg rests on the front of the console and a hinged rear leg is attached to the rear of the console, or to a partition behind the seat. The arm rest can be folded upward and backward for non-use stowage. The front leg folds out of the way when the arm rest is in the stowed position. The arm rest can be used in a bench seat by wedging the rear foot in the crease at the junction of the seat and back. The arm rest is simple, easy to manufacture and install, and provides relief and alleviates fatigue for those drivers who spend long period in their vehicles such as truckers, police and sales persons.



Inventors:
Wright, Christopher M. (Sequim, WA, US)
Application Number:
10/931106
Publication Date:
03/03/2005
Filing Date:
08/31/2004
Assignee:
WRIGHT CHRISTOPHER M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60N2/75; (IPC1-7): A47C7/54
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CUOMO, PETER M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Christopher M. Wright (Sequim, WA, US)
Claims:
1. An after market universal vehicle center armrest having ergonomic adjustability features, comprising in operative combination: a. a substantially horizontal base plate having an upper and a lower face and a longitudinal fore/aft dimension and a transverse lateral dimension; b. a padded armrest cushion mounted on the upper face of said base plate; c. a front and a rear adjustment plates attached to the lower face of said base plate, each said plates including at least one slot to permit longitudinal horizontal adjustment of said plate with respect to said base plate; d. a front leg attached by a hinge to a forward end of said front adjustment plate; e. a rear leg attached by a hinge to an aft end of said rear adjustment plate and including a foot portion for securing said rear leg to at least one of a vehicle center console or a partition wall behind an adjacent seat; f. at least one of said legs including a slotted plate and fastener assembly for vertical adjustment of the length of said leg; and g. said assembly forming a bridge that permits access to a console over which said arm rest is mounted, said slotted plates permitting both longitudinal, fore/aft and vertical adjustment for ergonomic fit to a wide range of driver sizes, and said hinges permitting said arm rest to be raised out of a use position to a stowed position with said front leg folded parallel to said base plate.

2. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 1 wherein said front leg is vertically adjustable.

3. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 2 wherein said rear leg is vertically adjustable.

4. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 1 wherein said rear leg and said foot are oriented at an acute angle to form a wedge for wedging said arm rest rear foot between the seat back and seat portion of a bench seat.

5. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 1 wherein said front leg includes a foot portion the bottom of which includes a non-slip, non-marring cushioning material.

6. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 1 which includes a latch assembly for securing said arm rest in a raised, out of service, stowed position.

7. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 6 wherein said latch assembly comprises a hook and eye.

8. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 6 wherein said latch assembly comprises an elastic member secured at one end adjacent the aft end of said arm rest, and the other end is removably engageable to an anchor point so that said arm rest in the stowed position is essentially retained in an over-center position, and said elastic member is selected to have sufficient force to retain said arm rest in the stowed position but not enough so that said arm rest in the use position is raised by said elastic member.

9. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 2 wherein the upper end of said leg terminates in an inverted J-shaped flange, the top of which is connected by said hinge to said front adjustment plate and prevents the angle formed between said leg and said base plate from exceeding about 90°.

10. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 4 wherein said front leg is vertically adjustable.

11. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 10 wherein said rear leg is vertically adjustable.

12. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 10 wherein said front leg includes a foot portion the bottom of which includes a non-slip, non-marring cushioning material.

13. An after market universal arm rest as in claim 12 which includes a latch assembly for securing said arm rest in a raised, out of service, stowed position.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED CASE

This application is the Regular Application of the Inventor's prior Provisional Application of the same title, Ser. No. 60/499,639, filed Sep. 2, 2003, the priority of which application is hereby claimed under 35 USC §119.

FIELD

The invention relates to after-market arm rest assemblies for vehicles, and more particularly to arm rest assemblies having features of both fore/aft and vertical adjustability for universal fit into a wide range of vehicles. The inventive arm rest is of a bridge type that permits fitting on and over a center console leaving ample space below for access to stowage compartments below. In addition, the arm rest can be raised from a horizontal deployed, in-use position to a vertical, stowed position. The inventive arm rest is particularly useful for lengthy duration drivers and front seat passengers who spend long periods in their vehicle, such as: police, highway patrol, security guards, surveillance personnel, border patrol, sales persons, taxi drivers and truckers.

BACKGROUND

A wide range of after-market vehicle arm rests have been proposed, and a few are currently available. An example is seen in the following US patent: Salters U.S. Pat. No. 4,907,835 (1990) shows a portable, removable arm rest having an upright tubing structure that is compression-mounted between the floor and cab roof of a truck. The arm rest slides vertically on the post.

In addition, a wide variety of OEM vehicle center arm rests are illustrated in the following US patents, most of which are highly complex, and adjustable in one or another dimension but not both horizontally and vertically, or are not bridge type arm rests: U.S. Pat. No. 4,558,901, Dec. 17, 1985, Arm Rest Device of a Seat for a Vehicle; U.S. Pat. No. 4,577,905, Mar. 25, 1986, Grant, Vehicle Armrest; U.S. Pat. No. 4,674,790, Johnson, Adjustable Arm Rest and Console Assembly; U.S. Pat. No. 5,636,899, Jun. 10, 1997, Schiff, Kinematic Structure for Vehicle Armrest; U.S. Pat. No. 5,951,084, Sep. 14, 1999, Okazaki et al, Seat Structure for a Vehicle; U.S. Pat. No. 5,997,092, Dec. 7, 1999, Slaven, System for Adjusting Vertical Height of an Armrest; U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,927, Dec. 21, 1999, Korber et al, Center Console Having Lengthwise, Laterally and Vertically Moveable Armrest for an Automobile.

A special set of problems are presented in many types of high-duty vehicles, such as in the case of non-dedicated vehicles having bench front seats or generic, one-size-fits-all bucket seats without arm rests. In vehicles that have some sort of center storage console, typically the consoles are low, unpadded or insufficiently padded, too short or not properly located fore and aft, and are not adjustable vertically. Others must be more or less permanently mounted on top of the console, and either block console interior access or are difficult to move out of the way. Others are made of plastic materials that do not withstand daily, heavy duty use. Putting a pillow over the console does not solve the problems as it may be too soft, and block access to the console access door.

The mis-aligned or wrong sized center arm rest results in the driver experiencing back discomfort after a few hours of use, and after weeks of use, the discomfort can result in chronic pain, not only of the back but also the hip and shoulders. This results in workers comp claims, missed work and loss of productivity. Examples of such vehicles include police patrol cars, security guard vehicles, taxis, and messenger, sales personnel, and delivery vehicles, both automobiles and van-type vehicles. In addition trucks of all sizes have the same problems.

Accordingly, there is a need in the art for a simple, easily manufactured, ergonomic, universal center arm rest that is both stable and vertically and horizontally adjustable to fit a wide variety of vehicles as well as drivers of all physical sizes and heights, and which permits access to the console storage as well as being quickly and easily stowable completely out of the way as needed and securable for extended periods in the stowed position, yet easily and quickly deployable to the use position.

THE INVENTION

Summary, Including Objects and Advantages:

The invention comprises an after-market, center position, ergonomic universal arm rest assembly having a fully padded top that is fully adjustable fore and aft and vertically, and includes hinged supporting legs having features permitting folding flat in a stowed position. The hinged back leg permits a wide range of alternative mounting arrangements, including bridging existing center consoles to permit access to the consoles, wedging in bench seats, and mountable to partition walls between front and rear seats that permit quick stowage out of the way. The inventive arm rest is securable in the stowed position, yet can be quickly deployed to the horizontal use position as needed.

In its broad aspects the inventive arm rest comprises an ergonomically padded, horizontal base plate that forms the working (arm rest) surface, a pair of horizontal adjustment plates adjustably secured through slots to the base plates, and a front and a back leg, each of which are hinged to the adjustment plates. The front leg also includes slots permitting vertical adjustment, and the back leg can optionally include vertical adjustment slots. The front leg includes a foot, the bottom of which is padded so as to not mar any console or seat element on which it rests. The rear leg includes holes for fasteners to alternatively fasten the leg to the rear end of a horizontal console, or to a generally vertical partition wall behind the front seat. The hinged rear leg permits the arm rest to be raised to a vertical, or over-vertical, stowed position against a partition wall, and includes a keeper device to retain the arm rest in a stowed position. The hinge on the front leg permits the front leg to be folded down and back so the leg is parallel to the base plate when the arm rest is in the stowed position.

To secure the inventive arm rest in the folded, stowed position, it is preferred to employ a latch comprising a hook and eye, or an optional elastic keeper member can be provided, either of which retains the arm rest in the raised, stowed, folded position. The over-center raised position keeps the front leg folded flat against the base plate. Optionally, the latch cam be a detent provided in the rear hinge.

The inventive arm rest has the following main advantages:

    • it is universal, fits any car as an after-market item;
    • it is bridge-type, in that it straddles any type of OEM center console;
    • it is ergonomic, being wide enough and well padded for long use comfort;
    • it is ergonomic in that it is fully adjustable, vertically for drivers of a wide range of torso height, and fore/aft for any desired driver arm position;
    • it folds up flat, in a stowed, out of the way position, not only for when it is not needed, but also, if necessary, for access to the OEM console or center utility storage trays or compartments underneath it;
    • an optional latch can be provided to retain the arm rest in the raised, out-of-service, stowed position; and
    • it is light weight, being frame-type construction, rugged, being made of steel or high-duty industrial plastic, and easy to mount, requiring only 2 screws to either the back of a console or a partition wall.

The inventive arm rest is particularly useful for long term driver usage, that is, for drivers that spend a long time in their vehicles, such as: public or private safety officers (police, highway patrol, security guards, border patrol, customs agents, etc.); taxicab drivers; sales agents; truck drivers; and the like. The vertical and horizontal adjustability feature permits good ergonomics, in that the driver's spinal position can be maintained straight during long periods thereby tending to prevent misalignment and attendant discomfort or pain.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is described in detail in reference to the accompanying drawings, in which the same or equivalent parts are numbered alike.

FIG. 1 is a side elevation sectional view showing the inventive arm rest secured to a center console between the two front seats in a vehicle;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the arm rest assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an alternate mounting scheme with the rear leg raised and the rear foot secured to the partition wall;

FIG. 4 is another embodiment wherein the acute angle of the rear leg and foot forms a wedge that is wedged into the crease between the seat back and the seat portion of a bench seat;

FIG. 5 is a side elevation of the inventive arm rest assembly, mounted in a vehicle to a partition dividing the front seat area from the back as in a patrol car, taxi or truck, shown in the raised, out-of-service, stowed position;

FIG. 6 is a side elevation of the inventive arm rest assembly as in FIG. 5 employing an elastic retainer; and

FIG. 7 shows an alternative embodiment of the front leg mount using a wooden block spacer instead of an metal, inverted J-shaped flange at the front hinge.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION, INCLUDING THE PRESENT BEST MODE

The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example, not by way of limitation of the scope, equivalents or principles of the invention. This description will clearly enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives and uses of the invention, including what is presently believed to be the best modes of carrying out the invention.

In this regard, the invention is illustrated in the several figures, and is of sufficient complexity that the many parts, interrelationships, and sub-combinations thereof simply cannot be fully illustrated in a single patent-type drawing. For clarity and conciseness, several of the drawings show in schematic, or omit, parts that are not essential in that drawing to a description of a particular feature, aspect or principle of the invention being disclosed. Thus, the best mode embodiment of one feature may be shown in one drawing, and the best mode of another feature will be called out in another drawing.

All publications, patents and applications cited in this specification are herein incorporated by reference as if each individual publication, patent or application had been expressly stated to be incorporated by reference.

FIGS. 1 and 2 are respectively an assembled view and an exploded view of the inventive arm rest. As best seen in FIG. 1, the pad assembly 12 comprises a wood base 42, sponge or foam padding 40 and is covered with vinyl or leather 38, the margins of which are stapled to the bottom of the wood base 42 before being covered by the base plate 14. FIGS. 1 and 2 show that the pad assembly 12 is fastened to a base plate 14 by a series of perimeter screws.

The front and back legs are hinged and adjustable fore and aft by means of a pair of horizontal, spaced adjustment plates, as follows. A rear slotted adjustment plate 16 is adjustably attached to the base plate 14 by bolts 44. The rear hinges 18 are attached to the rear end of the plate 16, and to the top of the rear leg 20. The rear leg 20 terminates in slotted rear foot plate 22. The slots permit adjustable attachment to a console 66 or compartment wall (50 in FIG. 3).

A front slotted plate 24 is adjustably secured to the base plate 14 by bolts 44. Front hinges 26 are secured to the front end of the slotted front horizontal adjustment plate 24. The other leaf of front hinge 26 is secured to the top of front leg slotted vertical adjustment plate 28 which terminates at its upper end in an inverted J-shaped flange 29. The top of the J-shaped flange 29 and hinge 26 support the base plate at its front end, and prevent the front leg from angling forward more than about 90° from the plane of the base plate. The front leg plate 28 is vertically adjustable by means of the nuts/bolts 46/47 in the front leg lower plate 32. The bottom of the front leg 32 terminates in a foot 34 to the underside of which is secured an anti-slip, anti-mar cushion strip 36.

Optionally, the rear leg 20 can also be a two-part, vertically adjustable assembly of the same or equivalent construction as the front leg, except that the upper J-shaped flange terminus is not required. Since the construction is the same and is shown at the front end of the assembly, it is not repeated at the back end in order to show the widest range of alternative constructions, with one or both legs adjustable. In some usages, the vertical adjustability of both legs will be preferred.

Typically, the rear hinge panel of the arm rest is secured to either: a) the rear separator or partition wall of a patrol car, taxi or truck cab (FIG. 3); or b) to the aft end of a center, after-market or OEM console 66 in vehicles having bucket seats, as shown in FIG. 1. However, in an important alternative shown in FIG. 4 for bench type seats, e.g., as found in trucks, the rear hinged leg 20 and foot 22 terminate in a wedge or like configuration. The wedge formed by the leg 20 and foot 22 fits in the groove 56 formed between the seat 52 and the seat back 54.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation of the inventive arm rest assembly, mounted in a vehicle, shown in the raised, out-of-service, position. The parts numbering is the same as in FIGS. 1-3. Rear foot 22 is secured by fastener 48 to the dividing/partition wall member 50 separating the front driver compartment from the rear seat compartment, such as is conventional in a police or other security vehicle, or in a commercial taxi, having a plexiglas or wire screen 58. The foot is fastened above the console as shown a distance sufficient so that the arm rest pad assembly is comfortable to the driver when in the lowered position of FIG. 1. The arm rest folds up, and the front leg assembly 28, 32, 46 folds flat, out of the way, at front hinge 26 against the underside of the rear slot plate 16 as shown. The arm rest center of gravity is behind the rear hinge 18 so that it rests in the out-of-service position of FIG. 5, thus permitting access to the compartment(s) 70 of console 66 via lid 72 (best seen in FIG. 1). In the alternative, a conventional latch hook and eye system 60 can be used to positively secure the arm rest in the raised/stowed position of FIG. 5. It should be noted that the latch 60 can be reversed, that is the eye can be secured to the rear slot plate 16 or base plate 14, and the latch can be secured to the wall 50.

FIG. 6 is a side elevation of the inventive Arm Rest Assembly as in FIG. 5 employing an elastic retainer 62, such as a bungee cord having end hooks, in place of, or in addition to, the hook and eye 60 of FIG. 5. By appropriate placement of the elastic member 62, e.g. with the lower retainer hook 64 placed close to the hinge 18, the arm rest is retained in the upright position, but may also be lowered to the use position of FIG. 1 while the bungee 62 is still attached. That is, the weight of the arm rest assembly is sufficient and the bungee force and attachment location forward of the hinge 18 is chosen such that the user can extend the bungee enough to bring it from the out-of-service position of FIG. 6 to the use position of FIG. 1 without the arm rest rising under the force of the spring or bungee 62. Likewise, since the arm rest is in an over-center position in FIG. 6, the bungee or spring 62 will retain the arm rest in the raised position until suitable manual force is used to lower the arm rest. The upper end hook 64a can be located vertically in any suitable position along the wall unit 50 to provide the elastic assistance desired. In the alternative, a spring-assisted gas lift cylinder, or other equivalent device, may be used in place of the elastic member 62.

FIG. 7 shows an alternative mounting method for the front hinge 26, using a wooden spacer block 30 instead of the metal inverted J-shaped flange 29 shown in FIG. 1. In this non-preferred alternative, the rear leaf of the hinge 26 is attached to the base plate 14 as in FIG. 1. The front leaf of the hinge is attached to the rear vertical face of the wooden spacer block. The spacer block permits the front leg to fold flat against the base plate when the arm rest is in the stowed position of FIGS. 5 and 6.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

It is clear that the universal adjustable center arm rest of the invention is useful in a wide range of vehicle types, and permits more ergonomic seating with the right arm of the driver fully supported at the normal height for more comfortable driving, yet permits complete access to the OEM stowage bins of the center console, and stowage out of the way in an out-of-service position.

It should be understood that various modifications within the scope of this invention can be made by one of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit thereof and without undue experimentation. For example, the feet need not be plates (sheets) but may be 4 individual tubular members. In addition, the rear leg assembly may be vertically adjustable and extensible like the front leg assembly. The spacer block 30 can be eliminated by appropriate placement of the front hinge 26 and design of the front slotted plate 24. The front foot 34 can be bent forward rather than backward. This invention is therefore to be defined by the scope of the appended claims as broadly as the prior art will permit, and in view of the specification if need be, including a full range of current and future equivalents thereof.

PARTS LIST To assist examination; may be canceled upon allowance at
option of examiner
10Universal bridge-type arm rest assembly
12cushion
14Base Plate
16Rear slot plate
18Rear hinge
20Rear leg
24Front slot plate
25Rivet
26Front hinge
27Rivet
28Front leg slot plate
29Inverted J-shaped flange
30Spacer block
32Front leg
34Front foot
36Anti-slip anti-marring cushion
38Vinyl, leather or fabric cover
40foam padding
42Wood base
44Fore/aft adjustment
46Bolts
47Flat nut or wing nuts
48Rear foot bolts
50Wall
51Window or grill
52Seat
54Seat back
56Wedge
58Plexiglas
60Latch (hook and eye)
62Elastic retainer (bungee, spring)
64, 64′End hooks
66Console
68Cup holder
70Storage compartment
72Console lid
74Roof
AFront height adjustment
B, CFore/aft adjustment
DRear foot placement adjustment
E, F, GLift to stow, Reverse to deploy