Title:
HEAD RESTRAINT SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING SAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A head restraint system and a method for producing a vehicle head restraint system include an in situ molding process that includes disposing at least a portion of a structural frame within a head restraint pad cover. An automatic return system is also disposed within the pad cover. An uncured polymeric material is introduced inside the pad cover such that it is applied to at least a portion of the frame, the automatic return system, and at least a portion of the inside surface of the pad cover. The polymeric material will then cure, forming a head restraint pad.



Inventors:
Fernandez De, La Pradilla David (La Rioja, ES)
Valganon Barrio, Javier (La Rioja, ES)
Martinez Jodra, Oscar (La Rioja, ES)
Application Number:
11/275139
Publication Date:
06/14/2007
Filing Date:
12/14/2005
Assignee:
LEAR CORPORATION (Southfield, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/10
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040026968Saddle for training gonadal regionFebruary, 2004Kim
20060152061Structure of a seat of a chairJuly, 2006Wu
20030047979Foot restMarch, 2003Carom
20100084907Soldier Support System in a VehicleApril, 2010Greenwood et al.
20020074847Covering for protecting users of motor vehicle seat beltsJune, 2002Terpselas
20100013291SEATBELT RETENTION DEVICE AND SYSTEMJanuary, 2010Baladi
20100045087Side Bolster Apparatus for Automobile SeatFebruary, 2010Pyun et al.
20100026078Dynamic trunk support systemFebruary, 2010Abdoli-eramaki
20050225137Infant restraint systems and methodsOctober, 2005Mead et al.
20080290708Rotatable Child Seat for Motor VehiclesNovember, 2008Pos
20100013273Foldable director's chairJanuary, 2010Chen



Primary Examiner:
MCPARTLIN, SARAH BURNHAM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BROOKS KUSHMAN P.C. / LEAR CORPORATION (SOUTHFIELD, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for producing a vehicle head restraint system including a head restraint having a head restraint pad and configured for movement between a use position and a lowered position, the head restraint system further including a frame and an automatic return system for automatically returning the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position, the method comprising: disposing at least a portion of the frame within a concave structure; disposing the automatic return system within the concave structure; and applying a polymeric material in a first state to: at least a portion of the frame within the concave structure, the automatic return system, and at least a portion of an inside surface of the concave structure, thereby creating the pad, the polymeric material having properties such that it enters a second state after it is applied.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the polymeric material includes a polyurethane foam material.

3. The method of claim 1, the frame including first and second portions, each of which includes a first end, the automatic return system including a biasing member, the method further comprising: forming a generally planar surface proximate each of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame; disposing the generally planar surfaces of the first ends adjacent each other such that an axis of rotation is formed for the first and second portions of the frame; and disposing the biasing member to contact each of the first and second portions of the frame, the biasing member being configured to provide a force to urge the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position.

4. The method of claim 3, further comprising disposing a friction member between the generally planar surfaces of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame, thereby keeping the generally planar surfaces from contacting each other as at least one of the first and second portions of the frame rotates relative to the other portion about the axis of rotation.

5. The method of claim 4, further comprising: forming a first elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the first portion of the frame; forming a second elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the second portion of the frame; forming an aperture in the friction member; and disposing the first and second elongate members in the aperture when the friction member is disposed between the generally planar surfaces of the first and second portions of the frame.

6. The method of claim 5, the biasing member including a coil spring forming an open center portion and having a first end disposed adjacent the center portion and a second end extending outwardly from the coil, the method further comprising: forming a third elongate member proximate the first end of the first portion of the frame, the third elongate member extending outwardly from a surface opposite the generally planar surface of the first portion of the frame; and forming a fourth elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the second portion of the frame, and wherein the step of disposing the biasing member to contact each of the first and second portions of the frame includes disposing the open center portion over the third elongate member, and disposing the second end of the spring to contact the fourth elongate member.

7. A method of producing a vehicle head restraint system including a head restraint having a pad and a pad cover, and configured for movement between a use position and a lowered position, the head restraint system further including an automatic return system having a biasing member and configured for automatically returning the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position, and a frame having first and second portions, each of the first and second portions including first and second ends, the method comprising: disposing each of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame adjacent to each other; disposing each of the second ends of the first and second portions of the frame adjacent to each other in general alignment with the first ends, thereby defining an axis of rotation for rotation of the first and second portions of the frame relative to each other; disposing the biasing member to contact each of the first and second portions of the frame, the biasing member being configured to provide a force to urge the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position; disposing the pad cover over the first and second ends of each of the first and second portions of the frame, and over the biasing member; and applying an at least partially uncured polymeric material inside the pad cover such that it contacts the first and second ends of each of the first and second portions of the frame, the biasing member, and at least a portion of an inside surface of the pad cover.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the at least partially uncured polymeric material includes a polyurethane foam material.

9. The method of claim 7, further comprising: forming a generally planar surface proximate each of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame; forming a generally planar surface proximate each of the second ends of the first and second portions of the frame; and disposing a friction member between the generally planar surfaces of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame, thereby keeping the generally planar surfaces from contacting each other as at least one of the first and second portions of the frame rotates relative to the other portion about the axis of rotation.

10. The method of claim 9, further comprising: forming a first elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the first end of the first portion of the frame; forming a second elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the first end of the second portion of the frame; forming an aperture in the friction member; and disposing the first and second elongate members in the aperture when the friction member is disposed between the generally planar surfaces of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame.

11. The method of claim 10, the biasing member including a coil spring forming an open center portion and having a first end disposed adjacent the center portion and a second end extending outwardly from the coil, the method further comprising: forming a third elongate member proximate the first end of the first portion of the frame, the third elongate member extending outwardly from a surface opposite the generally planar surface of the first end of the first portion of the frame; and forming a fourth elongate member extending outwardly from the generally planar surface of the first end of the second portion of the frame, and wherein the step of disposing the biasing member to contact each of the first and second portions of the frame includes disposing the open center portion over the third elongate member, and disposing the second end of the spring to contact the fourth elongate member.

12. A head restraint system, comprising: a head restraint including a pad; a frame including a first portion disposed within the pad and a second portion at least partially disposed within the pad, each of the first and second portions including a first end disposed adjacent to each other within the pad, the first ends together defining an axis of rotation for the first portion of the frame relative to the second portion of the frame, thereby facilitating rotation of the head restraint between a use position and a lowered position when a force is applied to an outer surface of the head restraint; and an automatic return system configured to automatically return the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position when the force is removed from the outer surface of the head restraint, the automatic return system including a biasing member in contact with each of the first and second portions of the frame, the biasing member being configured to provide a force to the first and second portions of the frame to urge the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position.

13. The head restraint system of claim 12, wherein each of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame includes a generally planar surface, the head restraint system further comprising a friction member disposed between the generally planar surfaces of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame.

14. The head restraint system of claim 13, wherein the generally planar surface of the first end of the first portion of the frame includes a first elongate member extending outwardly therefrom, and the generally planar surface of the first end of the second portion of the frame includes a second elongate member extending outwardly therefrom, and wherein the friction member includes an aperture disposed therethrough, and each of the first and second elongate members are disposed in the aperture, thereby limiting the angle of rotation of the head restraint between the lowered position and the use position.

15. The head restraint system of claim 14, wherein the aperture in the friction member includes an annular slot providing approximately 30 degrees rotation of the head restraint before at least one of the first and second elongate members impinges an edge of the slot.

16. The head restraint system of claim 14, wherein: the biasing member includes a coil spring forming an open center portion and having a first end disposed adjacent the center portion and a second end extending outwardly from the coil spring, the first end of the first portion of the frame includes a second surface opposite its generally planar surface, the second surface having a third elongate member extending outwardly therefrom, and the first end of the second portion of the frame includes a fourth elongate member extending outwardly from its generally planar surface, the open center portion of the spring being disposed over the third elongate member, and the second end of the spring being disposed to contact the fourth elongate member.

17. The head restraint system of claim 16, wherein the first and second portions of the frame each include a second end disposed adjacent to each other within the pad, the second ends being generally aligned along the axis of rotation.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a head restraint system and a method for producing a head restraint system.

2. Background Art

Although vehicle head restraints can increase passenger safety, they can also inconveniently add height to a vehicle seat. For example, the head restraints in rear vehicle seats may inhibit the rearward view of the driver. Likewise, front head restraints can inconveniently increase the height of their respective seats. For example, in smaller vehicles, and in particular, in two-door vehicles where it is necessary to fold down the front seats to provide access to the backseats, the front head restraints may impinge on a front instrument panel or dashboard, thereby making it inconvenient to load or unload the rear seats.

One method of addressing these issues is to provide a head restraint that can be placed in a lowered position to provide a better view for the driver, or to make it easier to fold a seatback forward. One problem with conventional folding head restraints is that they may not be returned to an upright use position when a passenger occupies the seat. This may result in the loss of the additional safety the head restraint was intended to provide. One attempt to address this situation is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,681,079 issued to Robinson on Oct. 28, 1997. Robinson describes a headrest folding mechanism that allows the headrest to be folded down when the back of the vehicle seat is folded down. Further, the mechanism causes the headrest to return to its upright position when the seatback is returned to its upright position. One limitation of the headrest folding mechanism described in Robinson is that it is made up of an elaborate system of springs, brackets and cables. Such an elaborate mechanism may not be desirable for smaller, entry level vehicles, where cost is a primary consideration.

Therefore, a need exists for a head restraint system that is effective to allow the head restraint to be placed in a lowered position, and which automatically returns the head restraint to its upright use position to ensure that it is available to a seated occupant. In addition, it would be desirable to have such a head restraint system that can be easily and cost-effectively produced, thereby helping to keep the overall vehicle cost low.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention provides a head restraint system having a head restraint that can be moved between an upright use position and a lowered position. The head restraint system also provides an automatic return mechanism to automatically return the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position. The invention also provides a method of producing such a head restraint system that helps minimize manufacturing costs.

The invention further provides a head restraint system with a robust pivoting and automatic return mechanism that facilitates in situ molding of a foam head restraint pad over the pivoting and automatic return mechanisms.

The invention also provides a method for producing a vehicle head restraint system including a head restraint which is configured for movement between a use position and a lowered position. The head restraint system has an automatic return system configured to automatically return the head restraint from its lowered position to its use position. The head restraint system further includes a frame. The method of producing the head restraint system includes disposing at least a portion of the frame within a concave structure, and disposing the automatic return system within the concave structure. A polymeric material in a first state is applied to at least a portion of the frame within the concave structure. It is also applied to the automatic return system, and to at least a portion of an inside surface of the concave structure to create a head restraint pad. The polymeric material enters a second state after it has been applied.

The invention also provides a method for producing a vehicle head restraint system including a head restraint having a pad and a pad cover. The head restraint is configured for movement between a use position and a lowered position. An automatic return system includes a biasing member to automatically return the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position. The head restraint system further includes a frame having first and second portions, each of which has first and second ends. The method includes disposing each of the first ends of the first and second portions of the frame adjacent to each other, and disposing each of the second ends of the first and second portions of the frame adjacent to each other in general alignment with the first ends. This defines an axis of rotation for the first and second portions of the frame relative to each other. The biasing member is disposed to contact each of the first and second portions of the frame, and is configured to provide a force to urge the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position. The pad cover is disposed over the first and second ends of each of the first and second portions of the frame, and over the biasing member. An at least partially uncured polymeric material is applied inside the pad cover such that it contacts the first and second ends of each of the first and second portions of the frame, the biasing member, and at least a portion of an inside surface of the pad cover.

The invention also provides a head restraint system including a head restraint having a pad, and a frame which has a first portion disposed within the pad and a second portion at least partially disposed within the pad. Each of the first and second portions includes a first end disposed adjacent to each other within the pad. The first ends together define an axis of rotation for the first portion relative to the second portion. This facilitates rotation of the head restraint between a use position and lowered position when a force is applied to an outer surface of the head restraint. An automatic return system is configured to automatically return the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position when the force is removed from the outer surface of the head restraint. The automatic return system includes a biasing member in contact with each of the first and second portions of the frame. The biasing member is configured to provide a force to the first and second portions of the frame to urge the head restraint from the lowered position to the use position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A shows a front plan view of a head restraint system in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1B shows a side plan view of the head restraint system shown in FIG. 1A, including a head restraint in an upright position and a lowered position;

FIG. 2 shows the head restraint system of FIG. 1 installed in a vehicle seat;

FIG. 3 shows a portion of a frame structure of the head restraint system shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows another portion of the frame structure of the head restraint system shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 shows a friction member which is used between rotating parts of the frame structure shown in FIG. 1; and

FIG. 6 shows a portion of the frame structure and an automatic return system of the head restraint system shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

FIGS. 1A and 1B respectively show a front and side view of a head restraint system 10 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The head restraint system 10 includes a head restraint 12 having a pad 14 inside a pad cover 16. The head restraint system 10 also includes a frame 18 which has a first portion 20 disposed within the pad 14, and a second portion 22, some of which is disposed within the pad 14.

The first portion 20 of the frame 18 includes first and second ends 24, 26. Similarly, the second portion 22 of the frame 18 also includes first and second ends 28, 30. As explained more fully below, the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 cooperate with each other to allow the head restraint 12 to pivot forward when a force is applied to an outer surface 32 of the head restraint 12—see FIG. 1B. In FIG. 1B, the head restraint 12 is shown with solid lines in an upright use position, and is shown in phantom lines in a lowered position after it has been pivoted forward as described above. This feature of the head restraint 12 may be convenient, for example, to allow a rear vehicle seat to fold down without having the head restraint 12 impinge on the seat in front of it. Another example of where such a folding head restraint is convenient is shown in FIG. 2. In FIG. 2, the head restraint 12 is shown installed in a vehicle seat assembly 34. The seat assembly 34 includes a seatback 36, which is shown in phantom in an upright position, and in solid lines in a lowered position. When a seat assembly, such as the seat assembly 34, is located in a front row of vehicle seats, the head restraint 12 can be moved from its upright use position to its lowered position to allow the seatback 36 to be folded forward even when the seat assembly 34 is located close to a vehicle instrument panel 38.

In order to help ensure that the head restraint 12 returns to its upright use position, the head restraint system 10 also includes an automatic return system 40-see FIG. 1A. As noted above, the head restraint 12 can be pivoted to its lowered position through application of a force on an outer surface 32 of the head restraint 12. Once the force is removed from the head restraint 12, the automatic return system moves the head restraint 12 from the lowered position back to the upright use position. Thus, there is nothing to keep the head restraint 12 in the lowered position except the application of the force to the head restraint 12. In this way, the head restraint 12 will remain in its upright use position unless affirmative action is taken to maintain it in the lowered position. This could be through application of the force by a vehicle occupant, or, as shown in FIG. 2, once the seatback 36 is folded down, the head restraint 12 may remain in the lowered position through contact with an object, such as the instrument panel 38.

In order to effect movement of the head restraint 12 and use of the automatic return system 40, the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 are configured to cooperate with each other. In particular, each of the first ends 24, 28 of the first and second portions 20, 22, and each of the second ends 26, 30 of the first and second portions 20, 22, are disposed adjacent to each other and are configured and to facilitate movement of the first and second portions 20, 22 relative to each other. In one type of installation, the second portion 22 of the frame 18 will be at least partially disposed within the back of a vehicle seat, such as the seatback 36 shown in FIG. 2. It can be attached to a frame of such a seat, or other structure, such that it remains stationary and provides support for the head restraint 12. Therefore, in one type of installation, the second portion 22 of the frame 18 will remain stationary as the first portion 20 rotates about an axis 42 defined by each of the first and second ends 24-30 of the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18.

To gain a better understanding of the interaction between the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18, FIGS. 3 and 4 respectively show details of the first ends 24, 28 of the first and second portions 20, 22. As shown in FIG. 3, the first end 24 of the first portion 20 includes two generally planar surfaces 44, 46. Similarly, FIG. 4 shows that the first end 28 of the second portion 22 is also configured with two generally planar surfaces 48, 50. Extending outwardly from the planar surface 44 of the first end 24—see FIG. 3-—s a first elongate member 52. Similarly, extending outwardly from the generally planar surface 48—see FIG. 4—is a second elongate member 54. As explained more fully below, the first and second elongate members 52, 54 help to define a range of rotation for the first portion 20 relative to the second portion 22 of the frame 18.

Also shown in FIG. 3 is a third elongate member 56 extending outwardly from the generally planar surface 46, which is opposite the surface 44. Similarly, a fourth elongate member 58 is shown in FIG. 4 extending outwardly from the surface 48. As explained more fully below, the third and fourth elongate members 56, 58 make up part of the automatic return system 40. It is worth noting that the second ends 26, 30 of the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 may each be configured with generally planar surfaces similar to those on the first ends 24, 28. Conversely, there is no need for the second ends 26, 30 to include any of the elongate members 52-58, since the first and second elongate members 52, 54 are adequate to limit the range of rotation of the first and second portions 20, 22. Moreover, the automatic return system 40 may be installed on only one side of the frame 18. Of course, the second ends 26, 30 could be configured with elongate members like the first ends 24, 28, and an automatic return system, such as the automatic return system 40, could be installed on the second ends 26, 30, as well as the first ends 24, 28.

FIG. 5 shows a friction member 60, which is configured to be disposed between the first ends 24, 28 of the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18. The friction member 60 can be made from a polymeric material, such as PTFE, nylon, or any other material effective to provide a wear surface and keep the first ends 24, 28 from contacting each other as they rotate. As shown in FIG. 5, the friction member 60 includes an aperture 62 configured in the form of an annular slot which defines an angle θ. Observing each component in FIGS. 3-5, and the assembly view of FIG. 6, it is readily seen that the first and second elongate members 52, 54 will be disposed in the aperture 62 when the friction member 60 is disposed between the two first ends 24, 28. In this way, the angle θ defines an angle of rotation for the head restraint 12. As shown in FIG. 5, the angle θ is approximately 30°; however, the aperture 62 can be configured with different angles as desired.

Each of the first ends 24, 28 and the friction member 60 has a respective aperture 64, 66, 68 disposed through it. When these three components are assembled, as shown in FIG. 6, the apertures 64, 66, 68 will be aligned with one another to allow a fastener, such as a rivet 70, to be disposed through them. The centers of the apertures 64, 66, 68 and the rivet 70 will then be aligned with corresponding apertures and a rivet on the second ends 26, 30 of the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18. It is worth noting that although the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 each include two ends, a frame structure in accordance with the present invention can be configured with a single end, since the automatic return mechanism 40 may be installed on only one pair of ends.

Returning to FIG. 6, the automatic return mechanism 40 is shown including a biasing member, or coil spring 70. The spring 70 includes an open center portion 72 which is disposed over the third elongate member 56. The spring 70 includes a first end 74 which is disposed adjacent the center portion 72. The spring 70 also includes a second end 76 which extends outwardly from the spring 70 and contacts the fourth elongate member 58. With this configuration, the spring 70 will work against the rotational motion of the first portion 20 relative to the second portion 22, as indicated by the directional arrow in FIG. 6. As discussed above, application of an external force on the head restraint 12 can cause it to be moved from its upright use position to its lowered position. As readily seen from FIG. 6, the spring 70 will urge the head restraint 12 back to its upright use position as soon as the external force is removed.

The relatively uncomplicated configuration of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 1-6 provides the advantages of a robust head restraint system, as well as relatively low cost for materials. In addition, the present invention facilitates the use of an efficient and cost-effective method for producing a head restraint system, such as the system 10. For example, as shown in FIG. 1A, all of the moving parts of the system 10 are disposed within the head restraint 12 itself. Therefore, with the exception of the second portion 22 of the frame 18, the head restraint system 10 does not occupy valuable space within a vehicle seatback. In addition to occupying less space than many conventional head restraint systems, the head restraint system 10 also facilitates the use of in situ or “foam in place” production techniques.

A head restraint pad, such as the pad 14, can be molded directly over the frame 18 and the automatic return mechanism 40. In one embodiment, the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 are assembled along with the automatic return mechanism 40, and the assembly is placed inside a concave structure, such as the pad cover 16. A polymeric material, such as polyurethane, is then blown into the pad cover 16 such that it contacts the first portion 20 of the frame 18, an inside surface 78 of the pad cover 16, as well as some of the second portion 22 of the frame 18. When the polyurethane is applied, it is in a first state—i.e., uncured. Sometime after it is applied, the polyurethane enters a second state—i.e., it cures. The polyurethane forms a pad, such as the pad 14; the head restraint system 10 may now be installed into a vehicle seat. This method eliminates the need to separately produce a head restraint pad and assemble it with a frame and a pad cover in secondary operations. Alternatively, it eliminates the use of shields to cover the first and second ends 24-30 and the automatic return system 40 during the molding of the pad 14, since they are robust enough to accept a polymeric material sprayed directly on them.

A frame, such as the frame 18, can also be produced in a cost-effective manner. For example, each of the first and second portions 20, 22 can be cast from a metal, or other material, with first and second ends having the generally planar surfaces as illustrated in FIGS. 3-4. The elongate members 52, 58 can also be formed in the casting process. Alternatively, they can be added to their respective surfaces in a secondary operation such as welding. Of course, other manufacturing processes besides casting could be used to form a frame, such as the frame 18. Once the first and second portions 20, 22 of the frame 18 are formed, or otherwise produced, their respective first ends 24, 28 and their respective second ends 26, 30 can be disposed adjacent to each other and connected with a fastener, such as the rivet 70 shown in FIG. 6. Although the range limiting function of the friction member 60 may be included on only one side of the frame 18, a similar friction member, with or without a range limiting function, can be disposed between the second ends 26, 30 of the first and second portions 20, 22 when the frame 18 is assembled. Finally, a biasing member, such as the spring 70 can be disposed over the third elongate member 56, and the end 76 of the spring 70 can be placed against the fourth elongate member 58. Upon completion of the assembly of the frame 18, it is now ready for the in situ molding process.

As shown in FIG. 1A, the pad cover 16 presents an outside surface of the head restraint 12. It may be leather, cloth, or other suitable material as desired. It is worth noting that for purposes of producing a head restraint system, such as the system 10, the assembled frame 18 could be placed directly into a concave structure, such as a mold. A polymeric material, such as the polyurethane foam, could then be sprayed directly into the mold over the frame 18 and the automatic return system 40. In this way, the polyurethane material itself would form an outside surface of the head restraint. This provides another cost-effective technique for producing a head restraint system in accordance with the present invention.

While embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described, it is not intended that these embodiments illustrate and describe all possible forms of the invention. Rather, the words used in the specification are words of description rather than limitation, and it is understood that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.