Title:
Safety belt system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cover for covering a seat belt fastening component is disclosed. The cover includes a first surface adapted to cover a portion of the seat belt fastening component. The cover can be selectively secured to and removed from the seat belt fastening component. The covers may be easily installed and removed, allowing a user to select a color or shape to achieve the desired aesthetic appearance.



Inventors:
Tanaka, Yoshihiko (Hikone-shi, JP)
Application Number:
10/998576
Publication Date:
06/02/2005
Filing Date:
11/30/2004
Assignee:
Takata Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A44B11/25; B60R22/12; (IPC1-7): A44B11/25
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Primary Examiner:
MENEZES, MARCUS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
1. A belt fastener arrangement, comprising: a cover plate adapted to be selectively engaged with and removed from a belt fastener component.

2. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the cover plate includes a surface to cover at least a portion of the belt fastener component; and a mechanism for securing the cover plate to the belt fastener component.

3. The arrangement of claim 2, wherein the cover plate includes at least two projections adapted to engage opposing sides of the belt fastener component.

4. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the belt fastener component is a seat belt latch.

5. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the belt fastener component is a seat belt buckle.

6. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the cover plate is colored to substantially match an interior of the vehicle.

7. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the cover plate is colored to substantially match an exterior of a vehicle having the belt fastener component.

8. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein the cover plate is substantially the same shape as a logo or mark identifying the vehicle or vehicle manufacturer.

9. A belt fastener arrangement, comprising: a belt buckle; a belt latch adapted to securely engage the buckle; and a cover plate adapted to be selectively engaged with and removed from at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch.

10. The arrangement of claim 9, wherein the cover plate includes a surface to cover at least a portion of at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch; and a mechanism for securing the cover plate to the at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch.

11. The arrangement of claim 10, wherein the cover plate includes at least two projections adapted to engage opposing sides of the at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch.

12. The arrangement of claim 9, wherein the cover plate is colored to substantially match an interior of the vehicle.

13. The arrangement of claim 9, wherein the cover plate is colored to substantially match an exterior of a vehicle having the at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch.

14. A cover for covering a seat belt fastening component, comprising: a first surface adapted to cover a portion of the seat belt fastening component; and a means for selectively securing and removing the first surface to the seat belt fastening component

15. The cover of claim 14, wherein the means for selectively securing and removing comprises: at least a pair of opposing side walls extending from a perimeter of the first surface; and a plurality of projections extending inwardly from an end of each of the opposing side walls, the projections being adapted to engage the belt fastening component on a side opposite the portion covered by the first surface.

16. The cover of claim 14, wherein the belt fastening component is a seat belt latch.

17. The cover of claim 14, wherein the belt fastening component is a seat belt buckle.

Description:

BACKGROUND

This application claims the benefit of Provisional Application No. 60/526,079, filed Dec. 2, 2003.

The present invention relates generally to the field of safety restraint systems. In particular, the invention relates to covers for seat belt buckles and other components of a seat belt system.

Presently, the appearance of safety belt restraint systems is not customized for the vehicle in which the system is installed. Thus, there remains a need for a safety belt restraint system that can be easily and economically modified to match the vehicle in which the system is installed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one embodiment of the present invention a belt fastener arrangement is provided. The arrangement comprises a cover plate adapted to be selectively engaged with and removed from a belt fastener component.

The cover plate may include at least one surface to cover at least a portion of the belt fastener component, and means for securing the cover plate to the belt fastener component. The means for securing may include at least two projections adapted to engage opposing sides of the belt fastener component.

The belt fastener component may be a seat belt latch. Alternatively, the belt fastener component may be a seat belt buckle.

According to another embodiment of the present invention, the cover plate is colored to substantially match an interior of the vehicle. In alternate embodiments, the cover plate is colored to substantially match an exterior of a vehicle having the belt fastener component.

According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, a belt fastener arrangement is provided that includes a belt buckle, a belt latch adapted to securely engage the buckle, and a cover plate adapted to be selectively engaged with and removed from at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch.

The cover plate may include at least one surface to cover at least a portion of at least one of the belt buckle and the belt latch and means for securing the cover plate to the belt fastener component. The means for securing may include at least two projections adapted to engage opposing sides of the belt fastener component.

Still a further embodiment of the present invention includes a cover for covering a seat belt fastening component. The cover includes a first surface adapted to cover at least a portion of the seat belt fastening component and wherein the first surface is removably secured to the seat belt fastening component.

The cover may include at least a pair of opposing side walls extending from a perimeter of the first surface and projections extending inwardly from an end of each of the opposing side walls. The projections may be adapted to engage the belt fastening component on a side opposite the portion covered by the first surface.

It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description, appended claims, and the accompanying exemplary embodiments shown in the drawings, which are briefly described below.

FIG. 1 is a pictorial illustration of a seat belt arrangement according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a seat belt latch according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a cover according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view along IV-IV of the components shown in FIGS. 2 and 3.

DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a seat belt arrangement 100 according to an embodiment of the invention. The seat belt arrangement 100 may be employed in a vehicle, such as a passenger car. The arrangement 100 includes a seat belt 120 for securing an occupant seated in a seat 110, such as a driver's seat or a passenger seat of a vehicle. The illustrated seat belt includes a shoulder belt. Other embodiments may include only a lap belt. The seat belt 120 is a conventional seat belt and is well known to those skilled in the art.

The seat belt is secured by fastener components, a belt latch 130 and a corresponding belt buckle 140. Such fastener components 130, 140 are well known in the art. A fastener component will be described in further detail below with reference to FIG. 2.

In an embodiment of the invention, the color of the fastener components 130, 140 is selected to achieve a desired aesthetic result. The color may be matched to, or selected according to, the color of the interior of the vehicle such as the seat 110. For example, if the interior of the vehicle, including the seat 110, is red, the belt latch 130 and the belt buckle 140 may also be red. Alternatively, the latch 130 may be made blue, while the buckle 140 is made white. In other embodiments, the color of the fastener components 130, 140 is selected to correspond to the color of the exterior of the vehicle.

According to another embodiment the shape of the fastener components 130, 140 may be selected to correspond to the vehicle in which the restraint system is installed. For example, the fastener components 130, 140 may have a shape corresponding to the logo of the vehicle in order to emphasize and strengthen the brand of the vehicle.

FIG. 2 illustrates one fastener component, the latch 130, in greater detail. The latch 130 includes a handle portion 132 and a latching portion 134. The handle portion 132 may be made of a hard plastic through injection molding, for example, and is adapted to be grasped easily by a human hand to allow engaging of the latch 130 to the buckle 140 (FIG. 1).

The latching portion 134 is the portion of the latch 130 which physically engages the buckle 140 when the seat belt 110 is to be secured. The latching portion 134 is, therefore, preferably made of a strong metal, such as stainless steel. A latching hole 136 is provided on the latching portion 134 to allow engagement with the buckle. Such configurations are well known to those in the art.

When the latch 130 is engaged to the buckle 140 to secure the seat belt 110, only the handle portion 132 of the latch 130 may be visible. The latching portion 134 may be completely inserted into the buckle 140. In this regard, it is the color of the handle portion 132 of the latch 130 that is selected to achieve the desired aesthetic result.

FIG. 3 illustrates a removable cover 150 according to an embodiment of the invention to facilitate achieving the desired aesthetic result. The cover 150 is adapted to be easily, but securely, engaged to and removed from the latch 130. This allows a user to select differing colors to achieve differing desired results. For example, for certain occasions, the user may desire the belt latch 130 to match the interior of the vehicle, while on other occasions, the latch 130 is desired to match the exterior of the vehicle. On still other occasions, the latch 130 may be desired to provide an eccentric look, such as a glittery appearance. Thus, according to an embodiment of the invention, a removable cover may be provided to allow the user to easily alter the appearance of the latch 130. Similar covers are contemplated for other fastener components, such as the buckle 140 (FIG. 1), as well.

Also, as described above, the shape of the cover 150 may be altered as necessary to correspond to the shape desired by the vehicle manufacturer. For example, the cover 150 may have the same general shape as the manufacturer's general or specific logos or trademarks assigned to the particular vehicle in which the system is installed. Alternatively, the cover may bear a logo intended to identify the manufacturer or supplier of the safety belt system.

Referring again to FIG. 2, the cover 150 includes a cover plate 152 adapted to cover at least a portion of the latch 130. The cover plate 152 may be configured to cover as much of the latch 130 as possible without interfering with the engagement of the latch 130 with the buckle 140. In this regard, the size of the cover plate 152 is substantially similar to the size of the handle portion 132 of the latch 130.

A series of walls 154a, 154b, 154c extend from the perimeter of the cover plate 152. The walls 154a, 154b, 154c may be sized to cover the sides of the latch 130. Again, the walls 154a, 154b, 154c should not interfere with the engagement of the latch 130 to the buckle 140. The cover plate 152 and the walls 154a, 154b, 154c combine to form a cavity 156 to accommodate the latch 130 therein.

In order to secure the cover 150 to the latch 130, projections 158 are provided to extend inward from the ends of the walls 154a, 154b, 154c. In the illustrated embodiment, a projection 158 is provided to extend from each of the three walls 154a, 154b, 154c. In other embodiments, projections 158 may extend only from two opposing side walls, such as walls 154a and 154b. The projections 158 are adapted to engage a surface of the latch 130 opposite the surface covered by the cover plate 152.

In other embodiments, the cover 150 may not include the walls 154a, 154b, 154c. Rather, projections may extend from the perimeter of the cover plate 152 and may be adapted to engage sides of the belt latch 130.

FIG. 4 illustrates the installation of the cover 150 on the latch 130. FIG. 4 illustrates cross-sectional views taken along IV-IV of each of the cover 150 and the latch 130. As noted above, the cavity 156 formed by the cover plate 152 and the side walls 154a, 154b, 154c is sufficiently sized to accommodate the handle portion 132 of the latch 130. The projections 158 are adapted to engage the side of the handle portion 132 opposite the side covered by the cover plate 152.

The cover 150 is preferably made of a plastic which allows some resilient bending or flexing of the walls 154a, 154b, 154c. In this regard, the walls may be flexed to allow the projections 158 to pass around the handle portion 132 of the latch 130. By so flexing the walls, the cover 150 may be mounted onto the latch 130. Similarly, the walls may be flexed allow the projections 158 to clear the latch when removing the cover 150.

The above description has described a cover for a particular fastener component, namely, a seat belt latch 130. It is understood that similar covers are contemplated for other fastener components, such as a seat belt buckle, within the scope of this invention.

Thus, the color, shape or other appearance of the seat belt fastener components may be easily altered to achieve the desired aesthetic appearance.

While the present invention has been described by way of example and in terms of preferred embodiments, it is understood that the invention is not limited thereto. The scope of the appended claims should be interpreted to encompass all such modifications, similar arrangements and procedures.