Title:
Arm rest return
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A seat having a seat bottom; a seat back pivotally connected to the seat bottom, the seat back having a frame; at least one bracket mounted to the frame; at least one actuator housing mounted to the at least one bracket, the at least one actuator having a slot; a drive member rotationally mounted in the at least one actuator housing; an arm rest operatively connected to the drive member; and at least one Bowden cable extending through the slot and connected to drive member such that the at least one Bowden cable rotates the drive member and the arm rest when a tractive force is applied to the Bowden cable.



Inventors:
Mcmillen, Robert J. (Tecumseh, CA)
Heraldo, Brenda (Windsor, CA)
Rosli, Isa (Windsor, CA)
Application Number:
11/436461
Publication Date:
11/30/2006
Filing Date:
05/18/2006
Assignee:
Schukra of North America (Tecumseh, CA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C17/04
View Patent Images:
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20080303326Vehicle Seat with Variable FirmnessDecember, 2008Booth et al.
20050023877Rear seat lock for vehiclesFebruary, 2005Vermeulen
20080122284Supporting structure for a chairMay, 2008Yang
20050269478Drive for an adjustment device with a worm wheel having a globoid toothing with a cylindrical sectionDecember, 2005Woehrle et al.
20070063566Seat assemblies including a seat stroking device and methods of useMarch, 2007Browne et al.
20050168026Travel pack and child safety seatAugust, 2005Kau
20040056517Portable folding chairMarch, 2004Farber et al.
20070262623Swivel and tilt bicycle seat assemblyNovember, 2007Fortt



Primary Examiner:
ABRAHAM, TANIA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KANG INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, LLC (WASHINGTON, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An arm rest return for use in a seat having a seat frame, the arm rest return comprising: a. a cross bracket mounted to the seat frame; b. an actuator housing operatively connected to said cross bracket, said actuator housing having a slot; c. a drive member rotationally mounted in said at least one actuator housing; d. an arm rest operatively connected to said drive member; and e. a Bowden cable extending through said slot and connected to said drive member such that said Bowden cable rotates said drive member and said arm rest when a tractive force is applied to said Bowden cable.

2. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said drive member further comprises a fastening portion and a driving portion.

3. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said driving portion is a helical gear.

4. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said fastening portion is a shoulder bolt to connect said arm rest to said drive member.

5. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said drive member further comprises a driven portion and said Bowden cable is at least partially wrapped about said driven portion.

6. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said cross bracket includes a tab to receive said Bowden cable.

7. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said actuator housing further comprises a cam.

8. The arm rest return according to claim 1, wherein said cross bracket includes at least one slot.

9. The arm rest return according to claim 8, further comprising at least one slider clip in sliding engagement with said at least one slot.

10. A seat comprising: a. a seat bottom; b. a seat back pivotally connected to said seat bottom, said seat back having a frame; c. at least one bracket mounted to said frame; d. at least one actuator housing mounted to said at least one bracket, said at least one actuator having a slot; e. a drive member rotationally mounted in said at least one actuator housing; f. an arm rest operatively connected to said drive member; and g. at least one Bowden cable extending through said slot and connected to drive member such that said at least one Bowden cable rotates said drive member and said arm rest when a tractive force is applied to said Bowden cable.

11. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said drive member further comprises a fastening portion and a driving portion.

12. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said driving portion is a helical gear.

13. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said fastening portion is a shoulder bolt to connect said arm rest to said drive member.

14. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said drive member further comprises a driven portion and said Bowden cable is at least partially wrapped about said driven portion.

15. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said cross bracket includes a tab to receive said Bowden cable.

16. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said actuator housing further comprises a cam.

17. The seat according to claim 10, wherein said cross bracket includes at least one slot.

18. The seat according to claim 17, further comprising at least one slider clip in sliding engagement with said at least one slot.

19. A method of assembling a seat comprising the steps of: a. providing a seat frame; b. connecting a cross bracket to said seat frame; c. connecting at least one actuator housing to said cross bracket; d. rotatably mounting a drive member in said at least one actuator housing; e. connecting an arm rest to said drive member; and f. connecting a Bowden cable to said drive member.

20. The method of assembling a seat according to claim 19, further comprising the step of connecting an end of said Bowden cable to a slider clip.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application 60/682,168, filed May 18, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to seats and, more particularly, to automotive seats having moveable arm rests.

2. Related Art

A popular feature in vehicles having cargo space such as sport utility vehicles, station wagons, and the like is fold down rear seats. Folding these seats down increases the cargo space. For that purpose, it is advantageous that the seat backs for the fold down rear seats be as thin as possible in their stowed position.

Fold down seats often have arm rests. The arm rests are pivotable such that a user may manually place the arm rests in a stowed position prior to placing the seat back in the stowed position. If the user fails to place the arm rests in the stowed position, the arm rests may crash into the seat bottom, thereby causing the seat to bind and prevent the seat from folding over.

Therefore, there is a need in the art for automatically placing the arm rests from a deployed position to a stowed position to prevent seat binding. Further, there is a continuing need in the art to make fold down seats more convenient and user-friendly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is an arm rest return feature for a fold down seat. The invention allows the arm rests to retract automatically from a deployed to a stowed position when a seat back of the fold down seat is moved toward a stowed position.

Each arm rest is driven by a drive member. A tractive force is applied to the drive member such that it rotates. As the drive member rotates, it moves the arm rests from a deployed to a stowed position.

In one embodiment, a Bowden cable is connected to a slider clip of an ergonomic device, such as a side bolster. When the seat back is folded down, a tractive force is applied to the slider clip, which in turn applies a tractive force to the Bowden cable such that it rotates the drive member. In this manner, the arm rests move automatically in correspondence with the ergonomic device.

Thus, in furtherance of the above goals and advantages, the present invention is, briefly, an arm rest return for use in a seat having a seat frame, the arm rest return having a cross bracket mounted to the seat frame; an actuator housing operatively connected to cross bracket, the actuator housing having a slot; a drive member rotationally mounted in the at least one actuator housing; an arm rest operatively connected to the drive member; and a Bowden cable extending through the slot and connected to drive member such that the Bowden cable rotates the drive member and the arm rest when a tractive force is applied to the Bowden cable.

Further, the present invention is, briefly, a seat having a seat bottom; a seat back pivotally connected to the seat bottom, the seat back having a frame; at least one bracket mounted to the frame; at least one actuator housing mounted to the at least one bracket, the at least one actuator having a slot; a drive member rotationally mounted in the at least one actuator housing; an arm rest operatively connected to the drive member; and at least one Bowden cable extending through the slot and connected to drive member such that the at least one Bowden cable rotates the drive member and the arm rest when a tractive force is applied to the Bowden cable.

Further areas of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating the preferred embodiment of the invention, are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a seat;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a seat back;

FIG. 3 is a front view of the seat back;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the seat back;

FIG. 5 is a rear view of a seat back that illustrates the mounting of a cross bracket;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a cross bracket;

FIG. 7 is a detailed perspective view of the side bolster;

FIG. 8A is a perspective view of the seat back with the arm rests removed for clarity;

FIG. 8B is a side view of the seat back;

FIG. 8C is an interior side view of the arm rest;

FIG. 9 is a front view of the seat back of FIG. 8A;

FIG. 10 is a bottom view of the seat back of FIG. 8A;

FIG. 11 is a top perspective view of a first embodiment of a drive member;

FIG. 12 is a front view of the first embodiment of the drive member;

FIG. 13 is a bottom perspective view of the first embodiment of the drive member;

FIG. 14 is a top perspective view of a second embodiment of the drive member;

FIG. 15 is a detailed bottom perspective view of an actuator housing;

FIG. 16 is a detailed top perspective view of the actuator housing;

FIG. 17 is a rear view of a seat back in an alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 18 is a side view of the seat back of FIG. 17; and

FIG. 19 is an interior side view of an arm rest.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The following description of the preferred embodiment(s) is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the invention, its application, or uses.

FIG. 1 illustrates a seat 100 having a seat back 110 and a seat bottom 120. The seat bottom 120 is mounted on a seat riser 115, which is mounted in a vehicle. In the depicted embodiment, the seat back 110 is pivotally mounted to the seat bottom 120 such that the seat back 110 may be pivoted from a deployed position to a stowed position. Optionally, the seat back 110 may include a headrest 150 and a seat belt mounting bracket 160. The seat back 110 and the seat bottom 120 may each have a seat cushion 140.

FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate in greater detail the seat back 110. In the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 2-19, some items (such as the seat cushion 140) are omitted for clarity. The seat back 110 includes a frame 105. The seat back 110 further includes first and second arm rests 12, 14, respectively, and at least one ergonomic device, such as first and second side bolsters 16, 18. The arm rests 12, 14 are pivotable from a deployed position D to a stowed position S (shown in phantom in FIG. 2). In the depicted embodiment, the side bolsters 16, 18 are also pivotable from a first position to a second position. As explained in greater detail below, the side bolsters 16, 18 collapse or “flatten out” as the seat back 110 is moved towards a stowed position. In the depicted embodiment, the arm rests 12, 14 are connected to the side bolsters 16, 18 such that the arm rests 12, 14 automatically move to the stowed position S as the side bolsters 16, 18 move from a first position to a second position. The seat back 110 also includes a pair of side margins 112 between which extend a plurality of transverse wires 114.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the seat back 110. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 4, the arm rests 12, 14 are in the stowed position S and the deployed position D is shown in phantom. The arm rests 12, 14 may be moved from the stowed position S to the deployed position D either automatically or manually. In the depicted embodiment, a user must manually pull down on one of the arm rests 12, 14 to put the arm rest in the deployed position D, and the arm rests 12, 14 automatically move to the stowed position S as the side bolsters 16, 18 move from a first position to a second position.

As best seen in FIGS. 5 and 6, a cross bracket 22 is attached to the seat frame 105. In the depicted embodiment, the cross bracket 22 is mounted to a back of the seat frame 105 and extends across the entire width of the seat frame 105. In some embodiments, there may be two cross brackets; one mounted to each side of the seat frame 105. The cross bracket 22 may be mounted to the frame 105 through fastening or by welding. The cross bracket 22 includes slots 24, a first tab 58, a second tab 60, a third tab 62, and a fourth tab 64.

As used herein, the term “Bowden cable” refers to a wire that slides through a sleeve to transmit motion from one end of the cable to the other, sometimes called a traction cable. The sleeve and wire are flexible such that the Bowden cable can transmit forces over a distance along a curved path. The wire is strong enough that it does not stretch appreciably when subjected to a pulling force. The sleeve is relatively non-compressible such that it does not appreciably shorten when subjected to a compression force. The ends of the sleeve are typically anchored in a stationary manner. One end of the wire is attached to an actuator that pulls on the wire and slides the wire through the sleeve, shortening the effective length of the wire at the opposite end. The other end of the wire is attached to a device that is driven by the movement of the wire. The actuator can be manual or motorized. In addition, the actuator can be driven by the movement of another component such as the folding of the seat back relative to the seat base as disclosed herein.

Referring now to FIG. 7, slider clips 130 are seated in the slots 24. The side bolsters 16, 18 are connected to the slider clips 130. Third and fourth Bowden cables 80, 82 are also connected to the slider clips 130. In the depicted embodiment, a sleeve of the fourth Bowden cable is mounted to the fourth tab 64. As a tractive force is applied to the cables 80, 82, the slider clips 130 slide towards the center of the cross bracket 22 such that the side bolsters 16, 18 are moved from a first position to a second position. In other words, the side bolsters 16, 18 collapse or “flatten out” as the seat back 110 is moved towards a stowed position. As an example, the third and fourth Bowden cables 80, 82 may be attached to the seat riser 115 such that a tractive force is applied through the cables 80, 82 when the seat back 110 is placed in the stowed position. Another example of a mechanism for generating tractive force on a Bowden cable wire which is driven by the folding of a vehicle seat is shown in commonly owned U.S. Pat. No. 6,905,170, which is herein incorporated by reference for all purposes. Springs 84 automatically return the side bolsters 16, 18 from the second position to the first position when the tractive force is released.

In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 8A, 9, and 10, the arm rests 12, 14 and the seat frame 105 have been removed for clarity. First and second actuator housings 26, 28 are mounted to the cross bracket 22. Each actuator housing 26, 28 includes a drive member 30, 32. In the depicted embodiments, a first drive member 30 is rotatably mounted in the first actuator housing 26, and a second drive member 32 is rotatably mounted in the second actuator housing 28. Arm rests 12, 14 are connected to the drive members 30, 32. Each drive member 30, 32 includes a fastening portion 52 and a driving portion 56. The fastening portion 52 is used to fasten the arm rests 12, 14 to the driving portion 56, and the driving portion 56 is used to transmit a force to the arm rests 12, 14. In the depicted embodiment, the fastening portion 52 is a shoulder bolt or screw. The driving portion 56 can be any number of various shapes. What is significant is that the driving portion 56 of the drive member 30, 32 engages the arm rest 12, 14 for rotation therewith. In the depicted embodiment, the driving portion 56 is in the shape of a helical gear.

As best seen in FIG. 8B, each arm rest 12, 14 is operatively connected to the respective drive member 30, 32. As best seen in FIG. 8C, each arm rest 12, 14 includes an aperture 13. The aperture 13 is shaped to mate and correspond with the driving portion 56 of the drive member 30, 32. Accordingly, the aperture 13 may have a gear shape, square shape, or some other shape that corresponds with the driving portion 56. The aperture 13 slides over the driving portion 56 and the fastening portion 52 is used to secure the arm rest 12, 14 to the respective drive member 30, 32.

An advantage can be achieved by utilizing a helical gear for the driving portion 56. In some embodiments, it may be desirable to move the arm rests axially along the fastening portion 52 to allow the arm rests 12, 14 to move away from the seat cushion 140 as the arm rests 12, 14 are moved to the stowed position. A cam 90 may be attached to the actuator housing or the arm rest to effect the axial displacement. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 10, the cam 90 is mounted on, or is integral with, the actuator housings 26, 28. As the arm rest 12, 14 rotate upwardly toward the stowed position, the arm rests 12, 14 will engage the cam 90, thereby causing the arm rests 12, 14 to slide along the fastening portion 52 and away from the seat cushion 140. In this manner, the arm rests 12, 14 will move outwardly while traveling to the stowed position S.

FIGS. 11, 12, and 13 illustrate one embodiment of the drive member 30, 32. The dive member 30, 32 may be a single component or assembled from multiple components. Additionally, the drive member 30, 32 may be made from metal or plastic. The drive member 30, 32 includes the fastening portion 52 and the driving portion 56. The drive member 30, 32 also includes a driven portion 70. In the depicted embodiments, the driven portion 70 is in the shape of a pulley. A Bowden cable is operatively connected to the driven portion 70 and is at least partially wrapped about the driven portion 70. In the depicted embodiments, a first Bowden cable 38 is connected to the first drive member 30, and a second Bowden cable 40 is connected to the second drive member 32. The driven portion 70 includes a groove 72 and a notch 74. The notch 74 is adapted to receive a cable end of the Bowden cable 38, 40. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 12, the driven portion 70 includes a hex-shaped opening 76, and the hex-shaped opening receives the hex-head of the shoulder bolt 52.

FIG. 14 illustrates a second embodiment of the drive member 30, 32. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 14, the driving portion 56 is square-shaped. The square-shaped driving portion 56 is adapted to mate with a corresponding feature, such as the aperture 13, on the arm rest 12, 14.

As best seen in FIG. 15, each actuator housing 26, 28 has a slot 48. The Bowden cables 38, 40 are mounted to the exterior of the actuator housing 26, 28 through the use of a clip 86. The first Bowden cable 38 extends through the slot 48 to attach to the first drive member 30, and the second Bowden cable 40 extends through the slot 48 to attach to the second drive member 32.

FIGS. 7 and 16 illustrate the connection of the cable 40 to the slider clip 130. A cable sleeve end of the cable 40 is mounted in the tab 60. A cable wire end of the cable 40 is mounted to the slider clip 130. As the slider clip 130 moves in the slot 24, the slider clip 130 applies a tractive force to the Bowden cable 38, 40 such that the Bowden cable rotates the drive member 30, 32. Thus, the drive members 30, 32 automatically rotate the arm rests 12, 14 to the stowed position when a tractive force is applied to the slider clips 130. Alternatively, the Bowden cables 38, 40 may be attached to the seat bottom 120 or the seat riser 115. As the seat back 110 is folded over, a tractive force is applied to the Bowden cables 38, 40, and the Bowden cables transmit the force to the drive members 30, 32.

FIGS. 17, 18, and 19 illustrate an alternative embodiment of the arm rest return of the present invention. FIG. 17 illustrates a back view of a seat back 210. The seat back 210 includes a frame 220. A cross bracket 222 is mounted to the frame 220. Mounting ears 250 are mounted to the cross bracket 222. Arm rests 212, 214 are pivotally mounted to the mounting ears 250.

As best seen in FIG. 18, the arm rests 212, 214 each include a mounting hole 252, and the arm rests 212, 214 are connected to the mounting ears 250 at the mounting hole 252.

As best seen in FIG. 19, a torsion spring 240 is mounted on the mounting ears 250 and in between the frame 220 and the arm rests 212, 214. The torsion springs 240 are used to move the arm rests 212, 214 to the stowed position when the seat back 210 is folded over. The torsion springs 240 are selected such that arm rests 212, 214 achieve at least sixty percent of the displacement from the deployed to the stowed position. In the depicted embodiments, the torsion springs 240 are of sufficient strength that the arm rests 212, 214 achieve at least eighty percent of the distance from the deployed to the stowed positions. The torsion spring 240 has two ends. One end of the torsion spring 240 engages a hole 244 in the arm rests 212, 214, and the other end of the torsion spring 240 engages a post 242 mounted to the cross member 222 or the frame 220. The torsion spring 240 is biased to automatically raise the arm rests 212, 214 to the stowed position.

Referring once again to FIG. 17, in some embodiments, the seat back 210 includes a catch mechanism 230 mounted to the frame 220 or the cross bracket 222. The catch mechanism 230 is a simple, spring-loaded pin that engages a pin hole 232 on the arm rests 212, 214. Bowden cables 238, 240 may be attached to the catch mechanisms 230 and to the seat riser or seat bottom. In this manner, the Bowden cables 238, 240 will apply a tractive force to the catch mechanisms 230 when the seat back 210 is folded over such that the catch mechanisms 230 disengage from the pin holes 232. Once the catch mechanisms 230 are released, the torsion springs 240 will rotate the arm rests 212, 214 upwardly to or near the stowed position. When the seat back 210 is in the deployed position, a user may manually move the arm rests 212, 214 from the stowed position to the deployed position. Once the arm rests 212, 214 are moved into the deployed position, the catch mechanisms 230 will again engage the pin holes 232 to lock the arm rests 212, 214 in place.

In operation, a user decides to move a seat 100 from a deployed to a stowed position. The user either manually or automatically moves the seat back 210 towards the stowed position. As the seat back 210 moves toward the stowed position, a tractive force is applied to the third and fourth Bowden cables 80, 82. The third and fourth Bowden cables 80, 82 act upon the slider clips 130 such that the slider clips 130 slide toward the center of the cross bracket 22. As the slider clips 130 move, the slider clips 130 apply a tractive force to the first and second Bowden cables such that the first and second Bowden cables 38, 40 rotate the first and second drive members 30, 32. The rotation of the first and second drive members 30, 32 move the arm rests 12, 14 from the deployed position to the stowed position.

There is also provided a method of assembling a seat. The method includes the steps of: providing a seat frame; connecting a cross bracket to the seat frame; connecting at least one actuator housing to the cross bracket; rotatably mounting a drive member in the at least one actuator housing; connecting an arm rest to the drive member; and connecting a Bowden cable to the drive member. Optionally, the method may also include the step of connecting an end of the Bowden cable to a slider clip.

As various modifications could be made to the exemplary embodiments, as described above with reference to the corresponding illustrations, without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the foregoing description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative rather than limiting. Thus, the breadth and scope of the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims appended hereto and their equivalents.