Title:
HYDRAULIC ADJUSTABLE SEAT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An adjustable chair and a tilt assembly for use therewith typically provides side to side tilting of the chair seat and preferably provides forward and backward tilting of the seat separately or in combination with the side to side tilting. A hydraulic system is provided for controlling the tilting movement. Hydraulic valves having adjustable knobs are used to control the resistance to the tilting movement whereby the chair is useful for exercise while the user is seated and the rate at which the tilting occurs may be controlled. The seat may be locked by closing additional hydraulic valves while the tilt assembly is in any tilted position or the user may shift weight on the seat to provide a continuous shifting of the tilt angle and tilt direction of the seat.



Inventors:
Dickie, Robert G. (King City, CA)
Application Number:
12/424987
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
04/16/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/00; A47C1/02; A47C3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20010003961Laptop computer workstationJune, 2001Hodge et al.
20070170758Vehicle seat assemblyJuly, 2007Allen et al.
20080272630SEAT ASSEMBLY HAVING A REMOVABLE LOAD FLOOR PANELNovember, 2008Sturt et al.
20080246326SAFETY GARMENT AND METHOD OF USING THE SAMEOctober, 2008Lichtner
20090140563DISPOSABLE AUTOMOBILE SEAT COVER AND METHOD OF USE THEREOFJune, 2009Placide
20080231099SEAT WITH ADJUSTABLE THIGH SUPPORT ASSEMBLYSeptember, 2008Szczepkowski et al.
20090026823Highchair With Adjustable SeatJanuary, 2009Driessen



Primary Examiner:
CRANMER, LAURIE K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SAND, SEBOLT & WERNOW CO., LPA (CANTON, OH, US)
Claims:
1. An adjustable hydraulic tilt assembly for a seat comprising: a base; a seat support disposed above the base and adapted to mount on a bottom of the seat; a universal joint providing a pivotal connection between the base and seat support whereby the seat support is tiltable relative to the base; and a hydraulic system providing variable tilting resistance to the seat support.

2. The tilt assembly of claim 1, wherein the universal joint includes a coupler having at least four faces, each face having a face aperture extending therethrough.

3. The tilt assembly of claim 2, wherein the universal joint further includes a first pair of opposed brackets secured to the seat support and a second pair of opposed brackets secured to the base.

4. The tilt assembly of claim 3, wherein each bracket includes a horizontal plate and a vertical plate joined generally at a right angle, and wherein each vertical plate includes a bracket aperture extending therethrough.

5. The tilt assembly of claim 4, wherein each bracket aperture is sized and positioned to align with a corresponding face aperture in the coupler.

6. The tilt assembly of claim 5, wherein a first bolt extends through the bracket apertures of the first pair of brackets and face apertures, and a second bolt extends through the bracket apertures of the second pair of brackets and face apertures.

7. The tilt assembly of claim 6, wherein the first and second bolts are positioned perpendicular to one another, and wherein the seat support is tiltable relative to the first and second bolt.

8. The tilt assembly of claim 1, wherein the hydraulic system includes a first pair of hydraulic actuators in fluid communication with each other through a fluid line, and wherein the hydraulic system further includes a regulator valve in the fluid line for controlling the fluid flow between the first pair of hydraulic actuators.

9. An adjustable hydraulic tilt assembly for a seat comprising: a base; a seat support disposed above the base and adapted to mount on a bottom of the seat; a pivotal connection between the base and seat support whereby the seat support is tiltable relative to the base; and an adjustable hydraulic system controlling tilting of the seat support relative to the base.

10. The tilt assembly of claim 9, wherein the hydraulic system includes a first pair of hydraulic actuators in fluid communication with each other through a fluid line.

11. The tilt assembly of claim 10, wherein the hydraulic system further includes a regulator valve in the fluid line for controlling the fluid flow between the first pair of hydraulic actuators.

12. The tilt assembly of claim 11, wherein the regulator valve includes an adjustment knob for adjusting the rate of fluid flow between the first pair of hydraulic actuators.

13. The tilt assembly of claim 12, wherein the hydraulic system further includes an on/off valve in the fluid line to stop and start the fluid communication between the first pair of hydraulic actuators.

14. The tilt assembly of claim 13, wherein the on/off valve includes a control switch having an open position and a closed position, wherein the open position starts fluid communication between the first pair of hydraulic actuators, and the closed position stops fluid communication between the first pair of hydraulic actuators, and whereby in the open position the seat support is tiltable relative to the base, and in the closed position, the seat support is not tiltable relative to the base.

15. The tilt assembly of claim 14, wherein the hydraulic system further includes a second pair of hydraulic actuators substantially similar to the first pair of hydraulic actuators, wherein the second pair of hydraulic actuators operate independent from the first pair of hydraulic actuators.

16. The tilt assembly of claim 15, wherein the first pair of hydraulic actuators and the second pair of hydraulic actuators extend between the base and the seat support.

17. The tilt assembly of claim 16, further including a first tilt axis intermediate the first pair of hydraulic actuators and a second tilt axis intermediate the second pair of hydraulic actuators, wherein the first and second tilt axis are generally perpendicular to one another and whereby the seat support is rotatable relative to the first tilt axis and to the second tilt axis.

18. The tilt assembly of claim 17, wherein the seat support is generally a flat plate having four corners, and wherein the base is generally a flat plate having four corners with each corner disposed below a corner of the seat support, and wherein each hydraulic actuator of the first pair and second pair of hydraulic actuators is disposed between a corner of the seat support and a corner of the base, and wherein no two hydraulic actuators are disposed between the same corner of the seat support and corner of the base.

19. An adjustable hydraulic chair comprising: a base; a seat support disposed above the base and adapted to mount on a bottom of a seat; a universal joint for providing a pivotal connection between the base and the seat support whereby the seat support is tiltable relative to the base; a first pair of hydraulic actuators in fluid communication with each other and a second pair of hydraulic actuators in fluid communication with each other, wherein the first and second pair of hydraulic actuators are disposed between the seat support and the base and provide tilting resistance to the seat support; a first hydraulic valve system operably connected to the first and second pair of hydraulic actuators, whereby the first hydraulic valve system provides variable tilting resistance to the seat support; and a second hydraulic valve system operably connected to the first and second pair of hydraulic actuators, whereby the second hydraulic valve system enables and disables fluid communication between the hydraulic actuators in the first pair, and between the hydraulic actuators in the second pair.

20. The adjustable hydraulic chair of claim 19, further comprising an imaginary central vertical axis passing through centers of the seat support and the base, wherein each hydraulic actuator in the first and second pair of hydraulic actuators are spaced equidistant from the imaginary central vertical axis.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/148,425, filed Apr. 18, 2008. The entire specification of this application is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates generally to adjustable chairs. More particularly, the present invention relates to a tilt assembly which allows the user of the chair to tilt the seat in any direction. Specifically, the present invention relates to such a tilt assembly which utilizes hydraulic systems to provide a selected resistance to the tilting movement as well as to provide a hydraulic lock for securing the seat at a chosen tilted position.

2. Background Information

While adjustable chairs have been known for some time, ergonomically adjustable seating which is widely available to the public at large is a more recent development which may be due to the use of computers, which has substantially increased the number of office workers who are desk bound. Most of the currently available adjustable chairs are adjusted at a first sitting or early on in the use of the chair such that the chair typically remains in the position set by the user of the chair. While the ability of the user to adjust the chair may be helpful in providing comfort to the user, this fixed position is still generally less than desirable due to the amount of time that the user spends in the chair. Thus, this stationary or sedentary work position is less than desirable in terms of productivity, employee morale, and the minimization of sick days taken by employees. Most of the currently available ergonomic chairs provide for the height adjustment of the seat, (usually by a gas lift strut or mechanical rotary screw), the forward and backward tilting of the seat, and the forward and backward tilting of the backrest. However, to the Applicant's knowledge, current ergonomic chairs do not provide for the side to side tilting of the chair seat nor do they provide a chair seat which may be set for continuous tilting movement in any direction while providing a control for the degree of resistance to the tilting movement, which is useful for controlling the speed at which the tilting movement occurs as well as a mechanism for exercise while the user is seated. The present invention addresses these and other problems in the art.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention includes an apparatus comprising: a base and a seat support which has a front, a back, and opposed sides, is adapted to mount on the bottom of a seat, and is disposed above and pivotally mounted on the base whereby the seat support is tiltable from side to side relative to the base.

The present invention also includes an adjustable hydraulic seat comprising: a base; a seat support disposed above the base adapted to mount on a bottom of a seat; a universal joint providing a pivotal connection between the base and seat support whereby the seat support is tiltable relative to the base; and a hydraulic system providing variable tilting resistance to the seat support.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view generally from the bottom of a chair utilizing the tilt assembly of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view generally from the top showing the tilt assembly removed from the chair.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged sectional view taken on line 4-4 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged sectional view taken on line 5-5 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5A is a sectional view taken on line 5A-5A of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of the base of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 7 is a bottom perspective view of the base of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of the hydraulic valves, hydraulic lines and operating lever.

FIG. 9 is a bottom perspective view of the hydraulic valves, hydraulic lines and operating lever.

FIG. 10 is a diagrammatic view of the hydraulic systems of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 11 is a sectional view similar to FIG. 4 showing the forward and backward tilting of the seat support of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 12 is a sectional view similar to FIG. 5 showing the side to side tilting of the seat support of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 13 is an enlarged side elevational view showing the teeth of the control lever engaging the teeth of the base to secure the control lever in a desired position.

FIG. 14 is a bottom perspective view of a second embodiment of the tilt assembly.

FIG. 15 is a diagrammatic view of the hydraulic lines and valves of the second embodiment of FIG. 14.

FIG. 16 is a side elevational view of a universal joint for the tilt assembly of FIG. 14.

FIG. 17 is a top perspective view of FIG. 16 with the seat support shown in phantom.

FIG. 18 is an exploded perspective view of the tilt assembly of FIG. 17 with the seat support and base shown in phantom.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The tilt assembly of the present invention is indicated generally at 10 in FIG. 1 in use with an adjustable chair 12 which includes a chair base 14, a seat 16 and a backrest 18. Tilt assembly 10 is configured to allow seat 16 to tilt relative to base 14 and backrest 18 in the forward and backward direction as well as in the side to side direction. Although assembly 10 may be used with a variety of chairs, chair 12 in the exemplary embodiment is shown as an office chair which may have various adjustment features other than those provided by tilt assembly 10. In the exemplary embodiment, chair base 14 includes a generally vertical support post 20 which is secured to and extends upwardly from a set of five legs 22 which project radially outwardly from the lower end of post 20 and are adapted to contact a support surface such as the ground or the floor. Legs 22 may include wheels mounted thereon although not shown in the present embodiment. Support post 20 may be a rigid non-adjustable post, but preferably includes a height adjustment mechanism 24 which typically involves the use of a gas spring. Seat 16 is a generally flat structure which is typically oriented horizontally in its home position. Seat 16 has a front 26, a rear 28, left and right sides 30 and 32, a top 34 and a bottom 36. Top 34 typically is formed of a cushion material on which a person may sit while bottom 36 is typically formed of a rigid material to which tilt assembly 10 is secured. Backrest 18 has a front 38 typically formed of a cushion material for resting a person's back against and a rear 40 which is typically made of a substantially rigid material. Backrest 18 extends upwardly and generally vertically from adjacent rear 28 of seat 16 and is secured to assembly 10 via an L-shaped connector 42 which has an upwardly extending leg secured adjacent the lower end of rear 40 of backrest 18 and a forward extending leg which is secured adjacent its front terminal end to assembly 10 via four nut and bolt fasteners 44. Height adjustment mechanism 24 provides for vertical adjustment as indicated at arrow A in FIG. 1. In addition, seat 16 and backrest 18 may be rotated or swiveled about the vertical axis passing through support 20 typically 360 degrees, as indicated at arrow B in FIG. 1.

Tilt assembly 10 includes a base 46 which is mounted on the top of support post 20 and on which backrest 18 is mounted via connector 42 at fasteners 44. Assembly 10 further includes a seat support 48 which is secured to bottom 36 of seat 16 via a plurality of fasteners 50 typically in the forms of screws. Seat support 48 is configured to tilt relative to base 46 forward and backward and from side to side, and most preferably in any direction. Tilt assembly 10 further includes a tilt control which in part controls the direction in which seat 16 and seat support 48 may tilt relative to base 46. The tilt control also controls the degree of resistance to the tilting movement and thus the amount of force which must be applied to tilt seat support 48 in a given direction, this force being provided in the exemplary embodiment solely by the shifting of the user's weight on seat 16.

Tilt assembly 10 is described in greater detail beginning with seat support 48 and with primary reference to FIGS. 2-4. Seat support 48 has a front 52, a back 54 and left and right sides 56 and 58. Support 48 includes a support plate 60 which is generally rectangular and includes left and right generally triangular flanges 62 and 64 extending outwardly opposite one another from the rectangular shape along left and right sides 56 and 58. Support plate 60 has a top 63 in the form of a flat upwardly facing surface and a parallel bottom 65 in the form of a flat downwardly facing surface. A set of four left mounting holes 66A and a set of four right mounting holes 66B are formed respectively adjacent left and right sides 56 and 58 of plate 60 extending from top 63 to bottom 65. Through holes 66 are configured to receive therethrough fasteners 50 (FIG. 1) for securing plate 60 to seat 16 with top 63 of plate 60 abutting the flat bottom 36 of seat 16. As shown in FIG. 4, seat support 48 further includes a generally cylindrical collar 68 which is rigidly secured to and extends downwardly from bottom 65 of plate 60 and defines a downwardly opening cavity or socket 70. Collar 68 and socket 70 are centrally located midway between front and back 52 and 54 as well as between left and right sides 56 and 58. Collar 68 defines a partial spherical concave surface 72 which bounds the top or upper portion of socket 70. In other words, concave surface 72 lies along a portion of a spherical boundary. Collar 68 further includes a hexagonal inner perimeter 74 which extends downwardly from concave surface 72 to a bottom entrance opening 76 at the bottom of collar 68. The hexagonal configuration of perimeter 74 is best shown in FIG. 5A.

Four pistons are rigidly mounted on plate 60 and extend downwardly therefrom, including a front piston 80F adjacent from 52, a back piston 80B adjacent back 54, a left piston 80L adjacent left side 56 and a right piston 80R adjacent right side 58. Each of pistons 80F and 80B are positioned midway between left and right sides 56 and 58 and are aligned with their respective centers collinear with the center of collar 68 and socket 70, as shown in FIG. 3. Left and right pistons 80L and 80R are mounted on flanges 62 and 64 and also have centers which are aligned collinear with the center of collar 68 and socket 70 along a line which is perpendicular to that along which pistons 80F and 80B are aligned. In the exemplary embodiment, each of pistons 80 is substantially identical and thus positioned equidistant from the center of socket 68 along a common circle concentric about the center of socket 68. In other words, each of pistons 80 is equidistant from a central vertical axis C (FIG. 4) which passes through the center of collar 68 and socket 70. Pistons 80 are thus circumferentially equidistant from one another with respect to axis C and in the exemplary embodiment each adjacent pair of pistons 80 is equidistant from each other so that pistons 80 lie at the corners of a square as viewed from above. Each piston 80 has a neck or shaft 82 which steps radially outwardly at an annular ledge 83 to a head 84 having a diameter greater than shaft 82. An annular groove 86 which is typically circular is formed in head 84 extending inwardly from its outer diameter. An annular flexible seal 88 typically in the form of an O-ring or circular seal formed of an elastomer is disposed in groove 86 and extends outwardly from the outer perimeter of head 84 a short distance. A coil spring 90 is mounted on each piston 80 circumscribing the respective shaft 82 thereof. Spring 90 extends downwardly from seat support 48 to base 46.

Base 46 is now described in greater detail with primary reference to FIGS. 4-7. Base 46 has a front 92, a back 94 and left and right sides 96 and 98 which are respectively aligned with front 52, back 54 and left and right sides 56 and 58 of seat support 48. Base 46 includes a flat and generally square rigid plate 100 which is typically oriented horizontally. Plate 100 has a top 102 in the form of a flat upwardly facing surface which faces bottom 65 of plate 60 and a bottom 104 in the form of a flat downwardly facing surface. A chair base mounting structure is provided for mounting base 46 on the upper end of support post 20 of chair base 14. This mounting structure in the exemplary embodiment includes a mounting cylinder 106 which defines a downwardly opening cavity 108 which is generally cylindrical and may include an upper section which tapers inwardly below plate 100. Cylinder 106 is rigidly connected to and extends downwardly from bottom 104 of plate 100 and is centrally located so that the center of cylinder 106 and cavity 108 are aligned along vertical axis C when base 46 and seat support 48 are mounted on one another. Four braces 110 are rigidly secured to the outer perimeter of cylinder 108 and extend upwardly to a rigid connection with the bottom 104 of plate 100 to provide additional support to cylinder 108. A ball or ball like member 112 is rigidly secured to and extends upwardly from top 102 of plate 100 directly above cavity 108 and is centered about axis C. Ball member 112 is received within socket 70 to provide a ball and socket pivotal connection between base 46 and seat support 48 whereby seat support 48 is tiltable in any direction relative to ball member 112. The cap of ball member 112 defines a partial spherical convex surface 114 having a curvature which mates with the partial spherical concave surface 72 of collar 68. Surface 72 thus is supported by and slides along surface 114 during the tilting movement of support 48 relative to base 46. Ball member 112 further includes a generally barrel shaped section having a hexagonal outer perimeter 116 formed of eight arcuate facets 118. As shown in FIG. 5A, arcuate facets 118 as seen along a horizontal section are straight and mate with respective facets 78 of collar 68 so that facets 78 slide along respective facets 118 during tilting movement of support 48. The non-circular cross-section and mating configuration of outer perimeter 116 and inner perimeter 74 prevents rotational movement of seat support 48 relative to base 46 about axis C. As viewed from the side, arcuate facets 118 form arcs of respective circles which have a diameter greater than that of the spherical surfaces 114 and 72.

As shown in FIG. 4, cavity 108 includes a wider section 120 defined by cylinder 106 which steps radially inwardly at a step 122 to a narrower section 124 which extends from wider section 120 upwardly into ball member 112 about half way from its bottom to its top. A through passage or entrance opening 126 is formed in the sidewall of ball member 112 and extends from its outer perimeter to its inner surface whereby it communicates with narrower section 124 and opens to the side. A terminal end of a control lever 128 is received within the narrower section 124. In addition, the upper end of support post 20 and height adjustment mechanism 24 (dashed lines in FIG. 4) is received within cavity 108 when base 46 is mounted on chair base 14. The gas spring of mechanism 24 includes a depressible activator pin or button 130 at its upper end which may be activated by control lever 128. More particularly, lever 128 may be operated so that its terminal end within narrower section 124 is moved downwardly to move button 130 downwardly (arrow D in FIG. 4) in order to activate the gas spring, that is, to unlock it from a given position and allow the internal pressure to create a lifting motion on tilt assembly 10 and seat 16. This mechanism operates in a standard fashion and thus allows assembly 10 and seat 16 to be raised when the user appropriately operates lever 128 when the user has removed his or her weight from seat 16. Also in standard fashion, the user may operate lever 128 and apply his or her weight downwardly on seat 16 to lower seat 16 and assembly 10.

With continued reference to FIGS. 4-7, base 46 includes a front cylinder 132F, a back cylinder 132B, and left and right cylinders 132L and 132R each of which is rigidly mounted on plate 100 with a portion extending upwardly from top 102 and a portion extending downwardly opposite therefrom from bottom 104. Each cylinder 132 includes a cylindrical sidewall 134, a circular bottom wall 136 connected to the bottom of sidewall 134 and an annular top wall 138 secured to the top of sidewall 134 whereby walls 134, 136 and 138 define therewithin a cylindrical interior chamber 140. A single or sole entry/exit port 142 is formed through sidewall 134 adjacent bottom wall 136 and communicates with interior chamber 140 below the bottom of the respective piston 80 which is slidably received within interior chamber 140. More particularly, annular top wall 138 defines a circular entrance opening 144 at the top of each cylinder 132 so that shaft 82 is slidably received to move in the up and down direction within entrance opening 144. Head 84 of each piston 80 is in its entirety disposed within interior chamber 140 and slidable therein so that seal 88 slides along the cylindrical inner surface of sidewall 134 along a continuous circular interface therewith. Entrance opening 144 has a smaller diameter than that of interior chamber 140, whereby ledge 83 of head 84 may abut the bottom of annular top wall 138, which serves as a stop to the upward movement of the respective piston 80 and associated portion of seat support 48 during the tilting movement thereof. As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, hydraulic fluid 146 is disposed within interior chambers 140 and moves through the associated hydraulic lines and valves which are discussed further below. Any suitable hydraulic fluid may be used although fluid 146 is preferably self-lubricating and non-staining. It has been found that mineral oil fulfills these characteristics although other fluids may be used. Pistons 80 and cylinders 132 thus form respective laterally spaced hydraulic actuators 148 in the form of piston cylinder combinations. More particularly, these include a front actuator 148F, and back actuator 148B and left and right actuators 148L and 148R. Front and back actuators 148F and 148B are disposed on opposite sides of the ball and socket pivotal connection respectively forward and rearward thereof while left and right actuators 148L and 148R are likewise disposed on opposite sides of said pivotal connection respectively to the left and right thereof.

With reference to FIGS. 6 and 7, plate 100 includes a backrest mounting location at a substantially rectangular flange 150 adjacent back 94 which extends outwardly on either side of cylinder 132B. A pair of mounting through holes 152 is formed through flange 150 from top 102 to bottom 104 of plate 100 on either side of cylinder 132B. Holes 152 are configured for receiving therethrough fasteners 44 (FIG. 1) in order to secure L-shaped connector 42 and backrest 18 on flange 150. Base 46 further includes a mounting area for mounting control lever 128 and the valves of the hydraulic system, which are described further below. A pair of horizontally spaced and generally triangular lever-mounting brackets 154 (only one shown in FIG. 6) are rigidly secured to and extend upwardly from top 102 of plate 100 adjacent entrance opening 126 of ball member 112. Through holes are formed in each mounting bracket 154 for receiving therein a pivot 156 whereby lever 128 is pivotally mounted on brackets 154 about a substantially horizontal axis E (FIG. 6). A recessed valve-mounting area 158 (FIG. 6) is formed in plate 100 extending downwardly from top 102 thereof. Area 158 is bounded along its bottom and sides by several valve-supporting walls 160 which are rigidly connected to and extend downwardly from bottom 104 of plate 100. Three through holes or access openings 162A-C are formed in walls 160 for receiving therethrough various hydraulic lines. A series of one-way ratchet teeth or locking teeth 164 are formed integrally with and extend upwardly from top 102 of plate 100 adjacent recessed area 158 on the opposite side of area 158 from ball member 112 and mounting flanges 154. Teeth 164 are disposed intermediate and generally midway between cylinders 132R and 132B.

Referring now to FIGS. 7-10, control lever 128 and its associated structure, along with the remaining portions of the hydraulic system are now described in greater detail. Referring primarily to FIGS. 8 and 9, lever 128 has inner and outer terminal ends 166 and 168 and is formed of two pieces in the form of a shorter segment 170 and a longer segment 172 which are pivotally connected to one another about a pivot 174 whereby longer segment 172 is pivotable relative to segment 170 about an axis F (FIG. 6) which is substantially vertical and perpendicular to axis E. Pivot 174 extends through respective aligned holes formed in each of segments 170 and 172. As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, pivots 156 are rigidly secured to and extend outwardly from either side of shorter segment 170. A dual-valve activator 176 is mounted on longer segment 172 adjacent its inner end and pivot 174 and includes a rearwardly facing flat vertical engaging surface 178. Likewise, a single-valve activator 180 is mounted on longer segment 172 just opposite activator 176 and includes a forward facing flat vertical engaging surface 182. Surfaces 178 and 182 are typically parallel to one another. A series of one-way ratchet teeth or locking teeth 184 is integrally formed with longer segment 172 and extend downwardly therefrom adjacent and radially outwardly of activators 176 and 180 relative to pivot 174. Teeth 184 are configured to releasably engage teeth 164 on plate 100 so that when teeth 184 and 164 are engaged, lever 128 is secured in a selected secured position and when they are disengaged or released from one another, lever 128 is movable to an unsecured position and in the exemplary embodiment is automatically returned to its home position shown in FIG. 6 as discussed further below.

With continued reference to FIGS. 6-10, the hydraulic system includes a left to right or side to side tilt control valve 186A, a first front to back tilt control valve 186B and a second front to back tilt control valve 186C. Each of valves 186 includes a housing defining an interior chamber for slidably receiving therein a depressible piston or plunger 188A-C along with an internal spring which biases the respective plunger outwardly to its closed position. Plungers 188A and 188B are configured to be depressed simultaneously by vertical engaging surface 178 of dual valve activator 176, while plunger 188C is configured to be depressed by vertical engaging surface 182 of activator 180. Side to side tilt valve 186A includes a pair of entry/exit ports 190L and 190R (FIG. 10) which are respectively associated with left and right actuators 148L and 148R. First front to back valve 186B likewise has a pair of entry/exit ports 192F and 192B respectively associated with actuators 148F and 148B. Likewise, second front to back valve 186C has a pair of entry/exit ports 194F and 194B respectively associated with front and back actuators 148F and 148B. A left hydraulic line 196L is connected at a first end 198 thereof to port 190L of the valve 186A and at a second opposed end 200 thereof to port 142 of left actuator 148L. Likewise, a right hydraulic line 196R is connected at a first end 198 thereof to port 190R of valve 186A and at an opposed end 200 thereof to right actuator 148R. Thus, the interior chambers 140 of left and right actuators 148L and 148R are in fluid communication with one another via lines 196L and 196R and valve 186A when plunger 188A is in an open or partially open position. FIG. 10 shows plunger 188A is slidably moveable as indicated by the double arrow between a closed position shown in solid lines and a fully open position shown in dashed lines. Plunger 188A increases the size of the passage through which hydraulic fluid may flow through valve 186A the more it is depressed into the housing of said valve. Left and right actuators 148L and 148R along with valve 186A and hydraulic lines 196L and 196R form one closed hydraulic system. Another separate closed hydraulic system is formed by front and back actuators 148F and 148B along with valve 186B and 186C and the associated interconnecting hydraulic lines. These hydraulic lines include three front hydraulic lines 202A-C which are interconnected at a T-connector 204 and extend respectively from connector 204 to the respective ports of front actuator 148F, front port 192F of valve 186B and front port 194F of valve 186C. Similarly, a rear set of hydraulic lines 206A-C are interconnected by another T-connector 208, from which said lines extend respectively to port 142 of back actuator 148B, back port 192B of valve 186B and back port 194B of valve 186C. Either one of valves 186B and 186C may be operated to allow hydraulic fluid to flow therethrough in order to provide for forward and backward tilting of seat support 48 or to prevent such tilting. Like valve 186A, each of valves 186B and 186C is a progressive valve configured to either cut off the flow of hydraulic fluid therethrough or to allow hydraulic fluid to flow with differing degrees of resistance depending on the degree to which plunger 188 is depressed to control the size of the passage through which the hydraulic fluid may flow through the respective valve.

The operation of tilt assembly 10 is now described. As shown in FIG. 6, outer end 168 of segment 172 of controller 128 may be pivoted upwardly (arrow G) so that segments 170 and 172 pivot as a unit about axis E and so that the terminal inner end 166 of shorter segment 170 pivots downwardly, which as previously indicated depresses button or pin 130 of the height adjustment mechanism as shown at arrow D in FIG. 4. This allows for the height adjustment previously described. In addition, outer end 168 of segment 162 may be pivoted in the forward direction (arrow H) about axis F relative to shorter segment 170 so that engaging surface 182 of activator 180 depresses plunger 188C (arrow J) of valve 186C to partially or fully open said valve. The opening of valve 186C allows the user to tilt seat support 48 along with seat 16 in the forward and backward directions only, as indicated in FIG. 11. More particularly, the user may shift his or her weight forward on seat 16 so that the downward force applied via seat 16 to seat support 48 forward of axis C is greater than the downward force applied rearward of axis C. This forward downward force or weight is indicated at WF in FIG. 11. The downward force or weight WF causes front piston 80F to move downwardly relative to front cylinder 132F so that the hydraulic fluid 146 within the interior chamber 140 of cylinder 132F is pressurized and forced into the interior chamber 140 of back cylinder 132B via the hydraulic pathway therebetween which includes line 202A, T-connector 204, line 202C, valve 186C, line 206C, T-connector 208 and line 206A. Depending on how far forward longer segment 172 of control lever 128 is moved forward and thus how far valve 186C is opened via the corresponding movement of plunger 188C, the resistance to the force or weight WF will be greater or lesser. As the back 54 of support 48 and back piston 80B move upwardly, ledge 83 may come into contact with the lower surface of annular top wall 138 to provide a stop to the tilting movement of support 48. If the user desires to tilt seat support 48 rearwardly as shown in dashed lines in FIG. 11, he or she simply shifts his or her weight rearwardly so that downward force behind axis C is greater than the downward force forward of axis C, the rearward downward force or weight being indicated at arrow WB in FIG. 11. The back 54 of seat support 48 thus tilts downwardly as the front 52 tilts upwardly in this scenario, with back piston 80B moving downwardly within interior chamber 140 of back cylinder 132B to force hydraulic fluid 146 along the same path but in the opposite direction.

The maximum angle or degree of tilting in the forward and the backward directions is indicated respectively at angles KF and KB in FIG. 11. Said angles are typically equal to one another and preferably at least 5 degrees and more typically 10 degrees. Although an angle of 10 degrees is likely sufficient to meet the needs of anyone sitting on seat 16 in a given position, angles K may be larger than this, for example up to 15 or 20 degrees especially where seat 16 is used for the purpose of exercising as discussed in greater detail further below. When the user is finished adjusting the forward or backward tilt of seat support 48, he or she may simply release lever 128 so that outer end 168 thereof is automatically moved back to its neutral position in response to the spring biased movement of plunger 188C in the direction opposite arrow J of FIG. 6 back to the closed position of valve 186C. When valve 186C is closed, hydraulic fluid may not flow therethrough and thus a hydraulic lock is provided which prevents the tilting movement of seat support 48 out of whatever position it is in when control lever 128 reaches its neutral or home position.

The user may also pivot outer end 168 of segment 172 rearwardly (arrow L in FIG. 6) about axis F relative to shorter segment 170 so that engaging surface 178 of activator 176 engages and forces plungers 188A and 188B toward respective partial or fully opened positions, as indicated at arrows M and N in FIG. 6. The simultaneous opening of valves 186A and 186B allows for the forward and backward tilting of seat support 48 as well as its side to side tilting. The forward and backward tilting is achieved in the same manner as described with the use valve 186C except that hydraulic fluid 146 flows through an alternate path which includes line 202A, T-connector 204, line 202B, valve 186B, line 206B, T-connector 208 and line 206A. The side to side tilting of seat support 48 is illustrated in FIG. 12, with the tilting to the right shown in solid lines and the tilting to the left shown in dashed lines. Again, the user will shift his or her weight on seat 16 so that a greater downward force is applied to the right of axis C than is applied to the left of axis C, as represented by arrow WR. Tilting support 48 to the left is likewise achieved by applying a greater downward force to the left of axis C than to the right of axis C, as illustrated by arrow WL in FIG. 12 so that left side 56 tilts downwardly as right side 58 tilts upwardly. As previously noted, the force for tilting seat support 48 is in the exemplary embodiment provided solely by the weight of the user on seat 16, and thus assembly is preferably free of a powered hydraulic pump for powering the flow of hydraulic fluid through its hydraulic systems. The respective angles or degrees of tilting to the right and left are respectively represented at angles KR and KL in FIG. 12 and fall within the same maximum ranges described above with reference to angles KF and KB it is noted that the use of the two valves 186A and 186B which may be in open positions at the same time via movement of lever segment 172 in one direction and the use of a third valve 186C which may alternately be in its open position via movement of segment 172 in the opposite direction provides an isolation mechanism which isolates the forward and backward tilting from the side to side tilting. More particularly, the tilting of seat support 48 is limited to forward and backward tilting when segment 172 is operated to open valve 186C when valves 186A and 186B are closed, while forward and backward tilting is alternately combined with side to side tilting to produce omni directional tilting when valves 186A and 186B are open and valve 186C is closed.

The simultaneous opening of valves 186A and 186B in conjunction with the ball and socket pivotal connection between base 46 and seat support 48 allows support 48 not only to tilt directly forward and backward and directly from side to side perpendicular thereto, but also to tilt in any direction relative to axis C. Thus, the user may rock, for instance, in a circular fashion, thereby shifting his or her weight along a generally circular pattern about axis C so that seat support 48 along with seat 16 may be tilted in any direction and continuously changed depending on where the greater amount of downward force is applied relative to axis C. The user may thus shift his or her weight to provide continuous shifting of the tilt angle and/or direction. In conjunction with the ability to control the degree of resistance provided by hydraulic fluid 146 depending on the extent to which valve 186A and 186B are open, the ability to tilt seat support 48 relative to base 46 especially in any direction provides a convenient way for the user to exercise in addition to the ability to set the angle of support 48 and seat 16 wherever desired. If the user wishes to lock the seat support 48 and seat 16 at a given degree of tilt, the user simply releases control lever 128 so that outer end 168 is automatically pivoted back to its home position in response to the spring biased movement of plungers 188A and 188B in the direction opposite arrows M and N in FIG. 6 to the closed position of valves 186A and 186B.

As noted above, tilt assembly 10 offers the user the ability to exercise or at least continuously shift positions as desired when valves 186A and 18B are partially or fully open. In order to maintain said valves in an open position, longer segment 172 of control lever 128 is manipulated so that teeth 184 engage teeth 164, as shown in FIG. 13. To achieve the securing engagement between teeth 184 and 164, outer end 168 of segment 172 is moved rearwardly as indicated at arrow L in FIG. 6 and then moved downwardly as indicated at arrow T in FIG. 13. The engagement of teeth 184 and 164 thus prevents the forward pivoting movement of outer end 168, whereby valves 186A and 186B are maintained in a partially or fully open position. As will be evident, a given tooth 184 may engage any one of teeth 164 depending on the position of lever 128 in order to secure lever 128 and valves 186A and 186B in the various positions associated with varying degrees of resistance provided by the flow of hydraulic fluid 146 through said valves. The spring bias of plungers 188A and 188B to their forward closed positions applies a forward force on surface 178 which is translated to a forward force of teeth 184 on teeth 164, thus providing a frictional engagement between said teeth which holds longer segment 172 in this latching or securing engagement between teeth 184 and 164. To release the securing mechanism provided by the frictional latching engagement between teeth 184 and 164, the use simply pivots outer end 168 of longer segment 172 upwardly about axis E, after which the user may simply release manual engagement with segment 172, which automatically returns to its home position in response to the spring bias of plungers 188A and 188B. As previously noted, the movement of segment 172 to its home position thus produces a hydraulic lock in each of the hydraulic systems so that seat support 48 is secured at the position to which it had been tilted at the time valves 186A and 186B reach their closed positions.

Assembly 10 also provides an automatic leveling mechanism for leveling seat support 48 or returning it to its home or neutral position. More particularly, springs 90 are provided for this purpose. As shown in FIGS. 11 and 12, at least one of springs 90 is compressed between annular top walls 138 of the respective cylinder 132 and upper portions of the respective piston 80 or the bottom of plate 60 when the portion of seat support 48 adjacent the compressed spring is moved downwardly relative to the portion of base 46 therebelow. When control lever 128 is in its home position, seat support 48 will be hydraulically locked at a given position which may be a tilted position in which at least one of springs 90 is compressed. The automatic leveling of seat support 48 is achieved by moving outer end 168 of longer segment 172 rearwardly (arrow L in FIG. 6) while the user has removed his or her weight from atop seat 16. This movement of control lever 128 of course opens valves 186A and 186B to unlock the hydraulic lock whereby the compressed spring or springs 90 provides an upward force on the respective downwardly tilted portion of seat support 48 to raise the downwardly tilted portion back to its home position, thus providing the automatic leveling of seat support 48. Movement of outer end 168 forward (arrow H in FIG. 6) to depress plunger 188C may likewise lead to a leveling movement via a compressed spring 90 with respect to forward and backward tilting of support 48 without providing side to side leveling.

Tilt assembly 10 thus allows a seat such as seat 16 to be tilted in any direction relative to a chair base such as base 14 and relative to a backrest such as backrest 18. In addition, assembly 10 provides hydraulic systems which are capable of providing varying degrees of resistance to this tilting movement, which is useful both in providing exercise for the user as well as limiting the rate at which the tilting occurs for a given amount of weight applied at any given point on seat 16. The hydraulic systems further provide a hydraulic lock for securing the seat support and seat in any tilted position while also providing a simple mechanism for automatically leveling the seat support and seat.

A second embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 14-18 which illustrate a tilt assembly 310 which operates similar in many aspects to the previous embodiment shown in FIG. 1-13. However, tilt assembly 310 replaces progressively opening valve 186 of the previous embodiment with two separate hydraulic valves, including one valve which controls the rate in which hydraulic fluid flows within the system, and another valve which operates to turn the hydraulic fluid communication on or off within the system. Tilt assembly 310 further replaces ball member 112 and cavity 108 of the previous embodiment with a universal joint having a lower profile.

Referring particularly to FIG. 15, a first pair of the previously described hydraulic actuators 148F and 148B are joined by a hydraulic line 312 containing a hydraulic fluid which allows for fluid communication between pistons 80F and 80B. Hydraulic line 312 also includes a regulator valve 316 and an adjustment knob 318 operatively connected to regulator valve 316 and movable between a plurality of positions to adjust the opening size of valve 316. Hydraulic line 312 further includes an on/off valve 320 and a control switch 322 operatively connected to on/off valve 320 and movable between an open and closed position to open and close valve 320.

A second pair of hydraulic actuators 148L and 148R are joined by a hydraulic line 332 containing a hydraulic fluid which allows for fluid communication between pistons 80L and 80R. Second pair of actuators 148L and 148R are substantially similar to first pair of actuators 148F and 148B described in the first embodiment, and includes a regulator valve 336 having an operatively connected adjustment knob 338 moveable between a plurality of positions to adjust the opening size of valve 336, and an on/off valve 340 having an operatively connected control switch 342 moveable between and open and closed position to open and close valve 340. The first pair of actuators 148F/48B and the second pair of actuators 148L/148R operate independently from one another.

As shown in FIG. 14, a control rod 324 extends from on/off valve 320 and terminates in a switch housing 323. Control switch 322 extends from switch housing 323 and is operatively connected to on/off valve 320 through control rod 324. Similarly, a control rod 344 extends from on/off valve 340 and terminates in switch housing 323. Control switch 342 extends from switch housing 323 generally parallel to control switch 322, and is operatively connected to on/off valve 340 through control rod 344. Similar to the previous embodiment, a control lever 346 extends from between base 46 and seat support 48 to actuate a gas pin (not shown) to raise and lower chair 12. Seat support 48 and base 46 are each generally a flat plate having four corners with each hydraulic actuator 148F, 148B, 148L, and 148R disposed between a corner of seat support 48 and a corresponding corner of base 46.

As shown in FIGS. 16 and 17, tilt assembly 310 includes base 46 and seat support 48, which operate substantially similarly to the previous embodiment. However seat support 48 tilts about a universal joint 350 pivotally connected to base 46 and seat support 48. Universal joint 350 includes a pair of upper brackets 351 secured to seat support 48. Each bracket 351 includes a horizontal plate 352 and a vertical plate 354 joined together generally at a right angle. Universal joint further includes a pair of lower brackets 371 secured to base 46. Each bracket 371 includes a horizontal plate 372 and a vertical plate 374 joined together generally at a right angle. Each vertical plate 354 and 374 includes a bracket aperture 356 and 376, respectively, extending therethrough.

Universal joint 350 further includes a coupler 385 having four faces 387, each face 387 having an aperture 389 extending therethrough. A first bolt 358 is sized to extend through a plurality of washers 360, bracket apertures 356 of upper brackets 351, and apertures 389 of coupler 385. A second bolt 378 is sized to extend through a plurality of washers 380, bracket apertures 376 of lower brackets 371, and apertures 389 of coupler 385.

The operation of tilt control 310 is now described. Tilt control 310 and tilt control 10 operate to hydraulically adjust seat 16 in fundamentally the same manner. However, while tilt control 10 combines on/off control of the hydraulic system with the progressive flow control of hydraulic fluid into one progressively opening valve 186, tilt control 310 separates the two valves. Tilt control 310 separates valves 186 of the previous embodiment into on/off valves 320 and 340, and regulator valves 316 and 336. Tilt control 310 further uses universal joint 350 rather than ball member 112 and cavity 108 to pivotally connect seat support 48 with base 46.

On/off valve 320 determines if the first pair of hydraulic actuators 148F and 148B are in fluid communication with one another, and on/off valve 340 determines if the second pair of hydraulic actuators 148L and 148R are in fluid communication with one another. As shown diagrammatically in FIG. 15, closing valve 320 or 340 prevents hydraulic fluid from moving through hydraulic lines 312 or 332, respectively, which in turn prevents actuation of pistons 80 within hydraulic actuators 148. Valves 320 and 340 may be closed while the user is tilting in any direction, and acts to “freeze” tilt control 310 in the current position for the user. Opening valve 320 or 340 allows hydraulic fluid to move through hydraulic lines 312 or 332, respectively, restoring fluid communication between hydraulic actuators 148F/148B, or 148L/148R, respectively.

As shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, control switch 322 extends from on/off valve 320 and provides a button mechanism to the user for controlling the opening and closing of valve 320, and more particularly the positioning of tilt control 310. When a user desires to hold first pair of actuators 308 in the current position, control switch 322 is depressed in the direction of Arrow M, which moves on/off valve 320 into a closed position to stop hydraulic fluid from moving within hydraulic line 312, interrupting the fluid communication between hydraulic actuators 148F and 148B. When a user desires to release first pair of actuators 308 from the current position, control switch 322 is released in the direction of Arrow M, which moves on/off valve 320 in an open position to allow hydraulic fluid to move within hydraulic line 312, establishing fluid communication between hydraulic actuators 148F and 148B.

On/off valve 340 acts in a substantially similar manner, with control switch 342 controlling the open or closed state of on/off valve 340 which enables or disables fluid communication between actuators 148L and 148R.

As shown in FIG. 15, to provide a central and more ergonomic control for control switches 322 and 342, control rods 324 and 342 extend from on/off valves 320 and 340, respectively, and terminate in switch housing 323. Control rods 324 and 342 provide an extending control mechanism for on/off valves 320 and 340, respectively. Switch housing 323 offers control switches 322 and 342 to the user in a central interface extending from between base 46 and seat support 48, and allows a user to easily control on/off valves 320 and 340. Pursuant to the overall objectives of tilt assembly 310, when a user wishes to hold seat 16 in a particular position, the user is typically sitting on seat 16. From this position, switch housing 323 is easily accessible and a user may manipulate control switches 322 and 342 simply by reaching down with a hand.

On/off valves 320 and 340 operate independently to control a separate range of motion for tilt assembly 310. As discussed previously, hydraulic actuators 148F and 148B control the front-to-back tilting of seat 16 and are actuated through hydraulic fluid which flows through line 312 and on/off valve 320. Closing on/off valve 320 stops hydraulic fluid through hydraulic line 312 and in turn, holds seat 16 stationary in the front-to-back range. As on/off valves 320 and 340 operate independently, seat 16 is free to move from side-to-side, even while on/off valve 320 is in the closed position, holding seat 16 stationary in the front-to-back range. Likewise for on/off valve 340, a user may restrict the side-to-side range of motion and hold seat 16 stationary with respect to that range by closing on/off valve 340. This independent control of the two ranges within tilt assembly 310 gives a user control over the ultimate position or motion of seat 16.

As shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, the operation of regulator valves 316 and 336 allow the user to adjust the rate of flow therethrough, by progressively opening and closing the valve in hydraulic lines 312 and 332 through manual manipulation of adjustment knobs 318 and 338, respectively. A user moves regulator valve 316 or 336 from a wide opening to a narrow opening to decrease the amount of hydraulic fluid which may pass through. This increases the resistance of hydraulic actuators 148, in turn requiring the user to apply more force to seat 16 to move it within a particular range of motion. A user moves regulator valve 316 or 336 from a narrow opening to a wider opening to increase the rate in which hydraulic fluid flows therethrough, lessening the force a user must exert on seat 16 to move it within a particular range of motion.

Manipulating regulator valve 316 or 336 is achieved through movement of adjustment knobs 318 or 338, respectively. Adjustment knobs 318 and 338 are operatively connected to regulator valves 316 and 336, respectively, and control the size of the valve opening. As shown in FIG. 14, adjustment knob 318 is moved in the directions of Arrow P to adjust the flow of hydraulic fluid moving through regulator valve 316 in hydraulic line 312. Likewise, adjustment knob 338 is moved in the directions of Arrow Q to adjust the flow of hydraulic fluid in hydraulic line 332. Adjustment knobs 318 and 338 may be adjusted to a plurality of positions, wherein each position corresponds to a different rate of flow of hydraulic fluid through regulator valves 316 and 336, respectively.

As shown in FIG. 15, adjustment knob 318 extends from regulator valve 316, positioned such that a user may manipulate adjustment knob 318 while resting in a seated position in seat 16. When a user wishes to decrease the rate in which hydraulic fluid flows through regulator valve 316, the user simply reaches down and moves adjustment knob 318 to a new position corresponding with the desired rate of flow of hydraulic fluid. With a decreased rate of flow, it takes more physical pressure from the user to tilt seat 16 in the front-to-back range. Likewise, with an increased rate of flow, it takes less physical pressure from the user to tilt seat 16 in the front-to-back range.

Adjustment knob 338 and regulator valve 336 work in a substantially similar way to adjust the rate of flow of hydraulic fluid through hydraulic line 332, allowing a user to adjust the side-to-side resistance of seat 16.

To maintain a universal range of tilting, tilt assembly 310 utilizes universal joint 350 having two orthogonal pivot joints to allow a user to tilt seat 16 in any direction. Universal joint 350 is an improvement over ball member 112 and cavity 108 of tilt assembly 10 of the previous embodiment in that universal joint 350 is smaller in vertical size, which lowers the overall vertical profile of tilt assembly 310.

As shown in FIGS. 16-18, upper brackets 351A and 351B are secured to seat support 48 and spaced to align bracket apertures 356A and 356B with opposed face apertures 389. This alignment allows first bolt 358 to extend through brackets 351 and coupler 385, which enables seat support 48 to tilt relative first bolt 358. First bolt 358 extends through brackets 351 and coupler 385 with the support of corresponding washers 360 which provide a friction reducing buffer between the metallic surfaces of first bolt 358, upper brackets 351, and coupler 385. First bolt 358 allows seat support to tilt in a general front-to-back orientation relative the overall tilt assembly 310.

Seat support 48 tilts relative second bolt 378 in a substantially similar way. Bracket apertures 376A and 376B are aligned with opposed face apertures 389, allowing second bolt 378 to extend perpendicularly relative to first bolt 358 through brackets 371 and coupler 385. Washers 380 provide a friction reducing buffer between the metallic surfaces of second bolt 378, lower brackets 371, and coupler 385. Second bolt 378 allows seat support 48 to tilt in a general side-to-side orientation relative the overall tilt assembly 310.

As a user sits down on chair 12 resting on tilt assembly 310, any desired tilting orientation is supported by universal joint 350. If a front-to-back tilt is desired, seat support 48 tilts about first bolt 358. If a side-to-side tilt is desired, seat support 48 tilts about second bolt 378. If an intermediate tilt is desired which corresponds to a front-to-back and a side-to-side, in any possible combination, seat support 48 tilts about both first bolt 358 and second bolt 378.

The hydraulic system and universal joint 350 of tilt assembly 310 are not limited to combined use, and either may be selectively incorporated into the first embodiment of tilt assembly 10.

In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.

Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.