Title:
ARTICULATING HEADREST ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A headrest assembly that is rotatable to various positions includes a support defining a horizontal axis. A shell is rotatably mounted to the support. Notches are disposed on the support, and each notch is associated with one of the positions. A lever is mounted to the shell and has a locking portion rotatable about the pivot axis and partially disposed in one of the notches to prevent movement of the shell. An actuator is mounted to the shell and rotates the locking portion of the lever about a pivot axis in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis. The actuator moves the locking portion out of one of the notches to allow the shell to rotate about the horizontal axis. Furthermore, the actuator moves the locking portion into one of the notches to prevent the shell from rotating about the horizontal axis.



Inventors:
Brockman, Mark Anthony (Belle River, ON, CA)
Application Number:
11/623856
Publication Date:
07/19/2007
Filing Date:
01/17/2007
Assignee:
WINDSOR MACHINE & STAMPING LIMITED (Windsor, ON, CA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/38
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
WHITE, RODNEY BARNETT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HOWARD & HOWARD ATTORNEYS PLLC (ROYAL OAK, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions, said headrest assembly comprising: a support defining a horizontal axis; a shell rotatably mounted to said support about said horizontal axis; a plurality of notches defined by said support and each associated with one of the plurality of positions about said horizontal axis; a lever mounted to said shell about a pivot axis and having a locking portion rotatable about said pivot axis and partially disposed in one of said plurality of notches for locking said shell in one of the plurality of positions to prevent movement of said shell about said horizontal axis; and an actuator mounted to said shell and abutting said lever to rotate said locking portion of said lever about said pivot axis in a direction transverse to said horizontal axis for moving said locking portion out of one of said plurality of notches to allow said shell to rotate about said horizontal axis when said actuator is actuated and for moving said locking portion into one of said plurality of notches to prevent said shell from rotating about said horizontal axis when said actuator is deactivated.

2. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 wherein said lever further includes a contact portion in direct contact with said actuator.

3. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 2 wherein said contact portion is integrally formed with said locking portion.

4. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 2 wherein said lever defines said pivot axis between said locking portion and said contact portion.

5. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 wherein said lever has a substantially L-shaped configuration and wherein said locking portion is integrally formed with said lever.

6. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 5 wherein said actuator is mounted to said shell parallel to said horizontal axis to abut said lever.

7. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 wherein said locking portion is parallel to said horizontal axis when said actuator is actuated.

8. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 7 wherein said locking portion is transverse relative to said horizontal axis when said actuator is deactivated.

9. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 further including a lever spring extending between said lever and said support for biasing said lever into one of said plurality of notches and prevent said shell from rotating about said horizontal axis.

10. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 further including at least one post integrally formed with and extending perpendicularly from said support through said shell.

11. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 1 wherein said actuator includes a collar extending through said shell and a plunger disposed in said collar.

12. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 11 wherein said actuator further includes a plurality of retaining clips disposed on said plunger and engaging said collar for holding said plunger in said collar.

13. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 12 wherein said plunger includes a tab engaging said collar for preventing said plunger from rotating relative to said collar to align said plurality of retaining clips into engagement with said collar.

14. A headrest assembly as set forth in claim 11 wherein said actuator further includes an actuator spring disposed about said plunger in said collar for biasing said plunger away from said lever.

15. An actuator for use with a headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions about a horizontal axis, the headrest assembly having a support, a shell rotatably mounted to the support, a plurality of notches disposed on the support and each associated with one of the plurality of positions, and a lever mounted to the shell and defining a pivot axis and having a locking portion rotatable about the pivot axis and partially disposed in one of the plurality of notches, said actuator comprising: a collar; a plunger extending through said collar for moving the locking portion out of one of the plurality of notches to allow the headrest assembly to rotate about the horizontal axis and for moving the locking portion into one of the plurality of notches to prevent the headrest assembly from rotating about the horizontal axis; and a plurality of retaining clips disposed on said plunger and engaging said collar for holding said plunger inside said collar.

16. An actuator as set forth in claim 15 wherein said plunger includes a shaft and an end cap disposed on said shaft for rotating the locking portion of the lever about the pivot axis in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis for moving the locking portion out of one of the plurality of notches and for moving the locking portion into one of the plurality of notches to prevent the shell from rotating relative to the horizontal axis.

17. An actuator as set forth in claim 16 wherein said wherein said plurality of retaining clips are integrally formed with said shaft.

18. An actuator as set forth in claim 16 wherein said tab is integrally formed with said shaft.

19. An actuator as set forth in claim 16 further including an actuator spring disposed about said shaft in said collar for biasing said plunger away from the lever.

20. An actuator as set forth in claim 16 wherein said shaft is integrally formed with said end cap.

21. An actuator as set forth in claim 15 wherein said plunger includes a tab engaging said collar for preventing said plunger from rotating relative to said collar to align said plurality of retaining clips into engagement with said collar.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/759,422 filed Jan. 17, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to a headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions.

2. Description of the Related Art

As both the number and speed of vehicles on the road increase, the potential for serious occupant injury during a vehicle crash also increases. Vehicles now offer standard occupant restraint and protection devices to mitigate the effects of a vehicle crash on an occupant. Such devices include seatbelts, airbags, and headrest assemblies for vehicle seats. A headrest assembly situated on the top of a vehicle seat offers safety protection from crash-related injuries and provides comfort for an occupant. Vehicle headrest assemblies are categorized as integral, active, or adjustable. An adjustable headrest assembly typically includes a headrest frame and a headrest, and is vertically adjustable to accommodate varying occupant seating heights, and horizontally positionable to decrease a gap between the headrest assembly and the head of the occupant.

Adjustable headrest assemblies offer safety protection from common crash-related occupant injuries such as whiplash. Whiplash injuries involve the soft tissues of the head, neck, and spine of an occupant, and may cause short-term muscle and ligament trauma or long-term nerve damage. Evidence suggests that whiplash may be caused by smaller amounts of head and neck movements relative to the torso of an occupant. An adjustable headrest assembly allows for correct vertical and horizontal positioning of the headrest relative to the head of an occupant to better control these head and neck movements. Adjustable headrest assemblies also provide comfort for a vehicle occupant. Proper headrest alignment decreases neck and shoulder fatigue, increases the field of vision of the occupant, and allows a vehicle driver to comfortably manipulate the steering wheel and vehicle controls.

Although various headrest assemblies are disclosed by the prior art, there remains an opportunity to provide a headrest assembly that has fewer parts and is more durable. In addition, a headrest assembly is needed that is easier to adjust than those of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION AND ADVANTAGES

The subject invention provides a headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions. The headrest assembly includes a support defining a horizontal axis and a shell rotatably mounted to the support about the horizontal axis. A plurality of notches are defined by the support and each notch is associated with one of the plurality of positions about the horizontal axis. A lever is mounted to the shell about a pivot axis and the lever has a locking portion rotatable about the pivot axis and is partially disposed in one of the plurality of notches for locking the shell in one of the plurality of positions to prevent movement of the shell about the horizontal axis. An actuator is mounted to the shell and the actuator abuts the lever to rotate the locking portion of the lever about the pivot axis in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis for moving the locking portion out of one of the plurality of notches to allow the shell to rotate about the horizontal axis when the actuator is actuated and for moving the locking portion into one of the plurality of notches to prevent the shell from rotating about the horizontal axis when the actuator is deactivated.

The headrest assembly provides several advantages over the headrest assemblies of the prior art. The headrest assembly includes fewer parts, which reduces manufacturing cost and complexity. In addition, the actuator abutting the lever to rotate the locking portion of the lever about the pivot axis in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis is more durable than the headrest assemblies of the prior art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other advantages of the present invention will be readily appreciated, as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions;

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of the headrest assembly of

FIG. 1 in a full back position;

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of the headrest assembly of

FIG. 1 in a full forward position; and

FIG. 3 is a partially exploded view of an actuator used with the headrest assembly of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the Figures, wherein like numerals indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views, a headrest assembly rotatable to a plurality of positions is shown generally at numeral 10. As shown in FIGS. 1, 2A, and 2B, the headrest assembly 10 includes a support 12 defining a horizontal axis 14. A shell 16 is rotatably mounted to the support 12 about the horizontal axis 14. The shell 16 may also include a cover (not shown) to hide the inside of the headrest assembly 10 and provide a cushioned surface. Preferably, the support 12 extends laterally through the shell 16 along the horizontal axis 14. However, those skilled in the art realize that the support 12 may be spaced from the horizontal axis 14. The support 12 defines a plurality of notches 18 and each notch is associated with one of the positions about the horizontal axis 14. The notches 18 are fixed relative to the support 12. In other words, the notches 18 do not rotate about the horizontal axis 14 as the headrest mechanism rotates about the horizontal axis 14.

An arm 20 disposed in the shell 16 may extend from the support 12 and the notches 18 may be defined by the arm 20. The arm 20 may extend perpendicularly from the support 12 or be integrally formed with the support 12. However, those skilled in the art realize that the arm 20 may extend at other angles relative to the support 12 or be a separate piece so long as the arm 20 is fixed relative to the support 12. In other words, the arm 20 does not rotate about the support 12 as the headrest mechanism rotates about the horizontal axis 14.

At least one post 22, 24 is integrally formed with the support 12. The at least one post 22, 24 extends perpendicularly from the support 12 through the shell 16 and into a seat (not shown). Preferably, the headrest assembly 10 includes a first post 22 and a second post 24, each extending from the support 12 through the shell 16 and into the seat. The posts may further allow translational movement of the headrest assembly 10 relative to the seat. Either the posts 22, 24 or the support 12 may be fixed relative to the shell 16 during translational movement of the headrest assembly 10. For instance, the support 12 may be partially embedded in the headrest assembly 10 such that the shell 16 is able to rotate about the horizontal axis 14 without the shell 16 moving relative to the support 12 during translational movement. However, those skilled in the art realize other ways to prevent the shell 16 from moving relative to the support 12 during translational movement while still allowing the shell 16 to rotate about the horizontal axis 14.

The headrest assembly 10 further includes a lever 26 mounted to the shell 16 about a pivot axis 28. The pivot axis 28 is defined by the shell 16. For instance, the shell 16 may include a protrusion 30 that extends in the direction of the pivot axis 28, and the lever 26 may be disposed on the protrusion 30 such that the lever 26 is able to rotate about the pivot axis 28. The lever 26 prevents or allows movement of the shell 16 about the horizontal axis 14. The lever 26 has a locking portion 32 rotatable about the pivot axis 28. To prevent movement of the shell 16 about the horizontal axis 14, the locking portion 32 is partially disposed in one of the notches 18 for locking the shell 16 in one of the positions. When disposed in one of the notches 18, the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 physically prevents the shell 16 from rotating about the horizontal axis 14. To allow movement of the shell 16 about the horizontal axis 14, the locking portion 32 is removed from the notches 18 to release the lever 26 from the support 12. When released from the support 12, the shell 16 may freely rotate about the horizontal axis 14 as the locking portion 32 does nothing to physically prevent the shell 16 from rotating.

The lever 26 further includes a contact portion 34 that may be integrally formed with the locking portion 32. However, those skilled in the art realize that the contact portion 34 may be separate from the locking portion 32. In a preferred embodiment, the lever 26 has a substantially L-shaped configuration. Specifically, the locking portion 32 and the contact portion 34 form the “L-shape”. However, other configurations for the lever 26 may also be used with the headrest assembly 10. Also, it is preferred that the lever 26 define the pivot axis 28 between the locking portion 32 and the contact portion 34. In other words, it is preferred that the protrusion 30 of the shell 16 that defines the pivot axis 28 extend through the lever 26 between the locking portion 32 and the contact portion 34. However, those skilled in the art realize that protrusion 30 defining the pivot axis 28 need not extend through the lever 26 be between the locking portion 32 and the contact portion 34.

A lever spring 36 extends between the lever 26 and the support 12 for biasing the lever 26 into one of the notches 18 and prevents the shell 16 from rotating about the horizontal axis 14. The lever spring 36 is attached to both the lever 26 and the support 12. Specifically, one end of the lever spring 36 is attached to the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 and another end of the lever spring 36 is attached to the support 12. The lever spring 36 is normally compressed to bias the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 into one of the notches 18.

The headrest assembly 10 further includes an actuator 38 mounted to the shell 16 and abutting the lever 26 to rotate the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 about the pivot axis 28 in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis 14. Generally, the actuator 38 is mounted to the shell 16 parallel to the horizontal axis 14 to abut the lever 26. The contact portion 34 is in direct contact with the actuator 38, and movement of the contact portion 34 causes movement of the locking portion 32. In other words, as the contact portion 34 is rotated about the pivot axis 28, the locking portion 32 is also rotated about the pivot axis 28. Preferably, the actuator 38 moves the contact portion 34 and the locking portion 32 in the same direction about the pivot axis 28. For instance, the actuator 38 may move both the contact portion 34 and the locking portion 32 in a clockwise direction about the pivot axis 28. Alternatively, those skilled in the art realize that the actuator 38 may move both the contact portion 34 and the locking portion 32 in a counterclockwise direction about the pivot axis 28. In a preferred embodiment, when the actuator 38 is actuated, the actuator 38 pushes on the contact portion 34 to rotate the lever 26, causing the locking portion 32 to move out of one of the notches 18. This allows the shell 16 to rotate about the horizontal axis 14. The locking portion 32 of the lever 26 is generally parallel to the horizontal axis 14 when the actuator 38 is actuated. However, when actuated, the locking portion 32 is moved from being generally parallel to the horizontal axis 14 to being transverse to the horizontal axis 14. In other words, the locking portion 32 is transverse relative to the horizontal axis 14 when the actuator 38 is deactivated. When the actuator 38 is deactivated, the actuator 38 stops pushing on the contact portion 34 of the lever 26 and the lever spring 36 pulls the locking portion 32 into one of the notches 18. The locking portion 32 moves into one of the notches 18 to prevent the shell 16 from rotating about the horizontal axis 14.

Referring now to FIG. 2A, the headrest assembly 10 is shown in a full back position. In other words, the shell 16 is rotated to the full back position relative to the seat. The locking portion 32 of the lever 26 is disposed in the notch associated with the full back position. Alternatively, referring to FIG. 2B, the headrest assembly 10 is shown in a full forward position. In other words, the shell 16 is rotated to the full forward position relative to the seat. The locking portion 32 of the lever 26 is disposed in the notch associated with the full forward position. It is to be understood that the shell 16 may be rotated to an intermediate position between the full back position and the full forward position by disposing the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 into the notch associated the intermediate position. Also, it is to be understood that the shell 16 may be rotated to any number of intermediate positions.

As best shown in FIG. 3, the actuator 38 includes a collar 40. The collar 40 extends through the shell 16 and a plunger 41 extends through the collar 40. The collar 40 extends through the shell 16 to provide access to the lever 26. The plunger 41 includes a shaft 42 and an end cap 44 disposed on the shaft 42 for rotating the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 about the pivot axis 28 in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis 14 for moving the locking portion 32 out of one of the plurality of notches 18 and for moving the locking portion 32 into one of the plurality of notches 18 to prevent the shell 16 from rotating relative to the horizontal axis 14. Preferably, the shaft 42 is integrally formed with the end cap 44, although those skilled in the art realize that the shaft 42 and the end cap 44 may be separate pieces.

The plunger 41 extends through the collar 40 for moving the locking portion 32 out of one of the notches 18 to allow the headrest assembly 10 to rotate about the horizontal axis 14 and for moving the locking portion 32 into one of the notches 18 to prevent the headrest assembly 10 from rotating about the horizontal axis 14. The plunger 41 abuts the contact portion 34 of the lever 26 and causes the contact portion 34 and the locking portion 32 to rotate about the pivot axis 28. In other words, as the plunger 41 moves parallel to the horizontal axis 14 inside the collar 40, the plunger 41 pushes the contact portion 34 of the lever 26 to rotate the locking portion 32 of the lever 26. This releases the locking portion 32 from the notches 18 to allow the headrest assembly 10 to rotate about the horizontal axis 14. However, those skilled in the art realize that the plunger 41 may move in other directions than parallel to the horizontal axis 14. For instance, the plunger 41 may move in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis 14. Typically, a person may exert a force on the plunger 41 (i.e., pushes the plunger 41) to cause the plunger 41 to move inside the collar 40. The force exerted on the plunger 41 must be enough to overcome the bias of the lever spring 36 into one of the notches 18. When the person ceases to exert the force on the plunger 41 (i.e., releases the plunger 41), the lever spring 36 pulls the locking portion 32 into one of the notches 18. Alternatively, an actuator spring 46 may be disposed about the shaft 42 in the collar 40 for biasing the plunger 41 away from the lever 26. Therefore, when the user releases the plunger 41, the actuator spring 46 pushes the plunger 41 away from the contact portion 34 of the lever 26.

A plurality of retaining clips 48 are disposed on the plunger 41 and the retaining clips 48 engage the collar 40 to hold the plunger 41 inside the collar 40. For instance, the collar 40 may include a recessed portion (not shown). The plurality of retaining clips 48 may engage the recessed portion to hold the plunger 41 inside the collar 40. The retaining clips 48 are integrally formed with the shaft 42, although it is to be understood that the retaining clips 48 and the shaft 42 may be separate pieces. The plunger 41 includes a tab 50 slideably disposed with the collar 40 for preventing the plunger 41 from rotating relative to the collar 40 to align the plurality of retaining clips 48 into engagement with the collar 40. For instance, the collar 40 may define a groove (not shown) and the tab 50 is disposed on the plunger 41 and slideably disposed within the groove for preventing the plunger 41 from rotating relative to the collar 40. Like the retaining clips 48, the tab 50 is integrally formed with the shaft 42, although it is to be understood that the tab 50 and the shaft 42 may be separate pieces. The tab 50 may align the retaining clips 48 with the at least one recessed portion of the collar 40 and to prevent the plunger 41 from rotating inside the collar 40.

The headrest assembly 10 described herein provides several advantages. The headrest assembly 10 includes fewer parts, which reduces manufacturing cost and complexity. In addition, the actuator 38 abutting the lever 26 to rotate the locking portion 32 of the lever 26 about the pivot axis 28 in a direction transverse to the horizontal axis 14 is more durable than the headrest assemblies of the prior art.

The invention has been described in an illustrative manner, and it is to be understood that the terminology which has been used is intended to be in the nature of words of description rather than of limitation. As is now apparent to those skilled in the art, many modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. It is, therefore, to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described.