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Publication numberUS20060158011 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/263,642
Publication date20 Jul 2006
Filing date31 Oct 2005
Priority date2 Nov 2004
Also published asDE102005052590A1
Publication number11263642, 263642, US 2006/0158011 A1, US 2006/158011 A1, US 20060158011 A1, US 20060158011A1, US 2006158011 A1, US 2006158011A1, US-A1-20060158011, US-A1-2006158011, US2006/0158011A1, US2006/158011A1, US20060158011 A1, US20060158011A1, US2006158011 A1, US2006158011A1
InventorsEd Marlovits, Madalina Onica, Syed Iqbal, Jody Van Horne, Zoran Panic, Corina Alionte, Peter Nagele, Angelika Riedi, Goran Bajic, Shaun Howick
Original AssigneeW.E.T. Automotive Systems Ag
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Molded layer for a seat insert
US 20060158011 A1
The present invention includes a ventilated seat for a vehicle having at least one ventilated component. The ventilated component has a cushion, a trim surface and an insert located beneath the trim surface of each ventilated component. The insert includes at least two layers, at least one of which is a molded layer. The at least two layer define an open space, that may include a spacer. The seat also includes an air mover assembly that is in fluid communication with the open space and servers to blow air to or draw air from the insert.
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1. A ventilated seat for a vehicle, comprising:
a vehicle seat having at least one ventilated component having a cushion and a trim surface;
an insert located beneath the trim surface of each ventilated component, the insert includes a first layer and a second layer, at least one of which is a molded layer, defining an open space;
an air mover assembly in fluid communication with the open space.
2. The seat of claim 1 wherein the molded layer is a fluid barrier layer.
3. The seat of claim 1 wherein the molded layer is a flow control layer.
4. The seat of claim 1 further comprising a spacer material located between the first and second layers.
5. The seat of claim 1 wherein the insert further comprises and extension.
6. The seat of claim 1 further comprising a duct that extends through the cushion.
7. The seat of claim 6 wherein a bellows provides fluid communication between the air mover assembly and the insert.
8. The seat of claim 7 further comprising an air impermeable trim surface.
9. The seat of claim 7 further comprising an air permeable trim surface.
10. The seat of claim 9 wherein the air mover assembly comprises a plurality of fans.
11. The seat of claim 10 further comprising at least one thermoelectric device.
12. The seat of claim 11 further comprising a heater located between the trim surface and the insert.
13. The seat of claim 1 wherein the insert is attached to the cushion.
14. The seat of claim 1 wherein the insert is attached to the trim surface.
15. The seat of claim 1 wherein the insert comprises an edge sealed bag.
16. The seat of claim 1 wherein the molded layer is injection molded.
17. The seat of claim 1 wherein the molded layer is thermoformed.
18. A ventilated seat, comprising:
a perforated seating surface for supporting a seat occupant;
a mixing region, at least partially defined by a molded layer, disposed under the seating surface for combining ambient air with a cooled fluid;
an air mover assembly for providing ambient air to the mixing region, for providing temperature conditioned air to the mixing region, for removing the combined ambient air and temperature conditioned air, and combinations thereof; and
a temperature conditioning device for at least adjusting the temperature of the air from ambient.
19. The seat of any of the preceding claims, wherein the temperature conditioning device is a thermoelectric device.
20. The seat of any of the preceding claims, wherein the mixing region is at least partially disposed in the spacer.
  • [0001]
    The present application claims the benefit of U.S. application 60/624,254, filed on Nov. 2, 2004 and is incorporated by reference.
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to improved trim bag insert for use in heating, cooling, ventilation and dehumidification of seats, and more particularly, of vehicle seats.
  • [0003]
    For many years the transportation industry has been concerned with designing seats for automotive vehicles that provide added comfort to occupants in the seats. Various innovations in providing seating comfort are discussed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,893,086; 6,872,882; 6,869,139; 6,857,697; 6,828,528; 6,676,207; 6,619,736; 6,439,658; 6,164,719; 6,064,037; 5,921,314; 6,064,037; 5,921,314; 5,403,065; 6,048,024 and 6,003,950, all of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference. In addition, other innovations in providing seating comfort are discussed in U.S. Publication No. 2002/0096931, filed Jan. 5, 2001, titled “Ventilated Seat”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,629,724, issued Oct. 7, 2003, titled “Portable Ventilated Seat”; U.S. Patent Publication 2004/0070236, filed Oct. 8, 2003, titled “Automotive Vehicle Seating Comfort System”, U.S. Patent Publication 2005/0067862, filed: Apr. 12, 2004, titled “Ventilated Seat”; and U.S. Patent Publication 2005/0066505, filed: Apr. 12, 2004, titled “A Method For Ventilating A Seat”, each of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.
  • [0004]
    In the interest of continuing such innovation, the present invention provides an improved insert and system for a seat, which are preferably suitable for employment within or as part of an automotive vehicle seat and which assist in providing comfort control to an occupant in the seat.
  • [0005]
    The present invention includes a ventilated seat for a vehicle having at least one ventilated component. The ventilated component has a cushion, a trim surface and an insert located beneath the trim surface of each ventilated component. The insert includes at least two layers, at least one of which is a molded layer. The at least two layer define an open space, that may include a spacer. The seat also includes an air mover assembly that is in fluid communication with the open space and servers to blow air to or draw air from the insert.
  • [0006]
    In the drawings:
  • [0007]
    FIG. 1 shows an exploded view of one embodiment of an insert that may include a molded layer according to the present invention.
  • [0008]
    FIG. 2 shows an insert that may include a thermoformed layer according to the present invention.
  • [0009]
    FIG. 3 shows a molded layer according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0010]
    Transportation vehicle seats may comprise at least one ventilated component such as a seat component, a backrest component, a bolster, an armrest, a headrest or the like. Each ventilated component may provide heating, cooling, ventilation or combinations thereof to the occupant, and comprises a seat cushion and a trim surface to cover the seat, as well as a thermal change insert. The present invention relates to a molded layer for incorporation into a thermal change insert.
  • [0011]
    The thermal change insert will include at least one layer, but preferably includes multiple (e.g. three) layers and each of the layers may be a monolayer or a plurality of layers (e.g. a laminate). The plurality of layers need not be attached to each other but preferably are. More preferably, the layers are attached to each other at least at their edges to form an edge-sealed bag, although this is not necessarily the case. The layers of the insert are typically co-extensive, although partial layers that are not co-extensive with the other layers or the insert may be suitable in certain instances.
  • [0012]
    The insert and the layers that make up the insert have a seat portion and, optionally, an extension. The seat portion generally is the area of the insert that will provide heating, cooling, ventilation or combinations thereof to the area of the seat used by the occupant, whether the insert is located in the seat component, in the armrest component or elsewhere. The extension permits components of a system that includes the insert to be remote from the seat portion. This allows the components to be conveniently located so that they do not interfere with the comfort of the seat. For example, the extension permits fluid movers and/or thermoelectric device to be located underneath the cushion where they will not be noticeable to the occupant, underneath being relative to the occupant side of the insert. While typically the extension is located at the back of the seat, it may be located on either side, in the front of the seat, on a corner or absent altogether. Multiple extensions may also be used on an insert.
  • [0013]
    Typically, the insert is supported by a cushion. The cushion may include one or more ducts that extend partially or completely through the cushion, or the cushions may be free of ducts that extend through the cushion. A preferred cushion is a molded plastic foam, which is preferably free of a molded or cut-out fluid distribution ducting network, but may be adapted with a trench or opening for passing the extension from one side of the cushion to the another side (e.g. from top to bottom). The cushion may in turn be supported by a seat frame. Multiple inserts may be used on a single seat or backrest cushion, where inserts may accomplish the same or different functions (e.g. one insert may only cool, while another insert may both heat and cool).
  • [0014]
    In an alternative to the extension of the insert, a bellows or other conduit may be used to provide connection between the insert and the other components of the system. The bellows provides similar functionality as the extension, e.g. to permit components of the system to be conveniently located remotely from the occupant contacts areas of the seat. The bellows or conduits may be located in a duct extending through the cushion that supporting the insert. Thus, the bellows may be located underneath the seat portion of the insert or connected to an edge of the insert. As with the extension, two or more bellows may be used in conjunction with each insert, each in a separate duct through the cushion or the ducts sharing one or more bellows. The bellows are preferably connected to the insert in a relatively air tight manner, such as through a snap-fit attachment mechanism.
  • [0015]
    The molded layer of the insert may serve several different purposes within the insert. The molded layer may be used a flow control layer that selectively permits air flow across the layer through one or more through holes. Also, the molded layer may be used as a fluid barrier that is substantially impermeable or impermeable to air or other temperature conditioned fluid utilized in the system. Further, different molded layers within the insert may serve different purposes. Indeed, a single molded layer may serve multiple purposes: acting as a fluid barrier in the seat portion and a flow control layer in the extension.
  • [0016]
    One suitable embodiment of the insert is shown in FIG. 1. The thermal change insert 10 comprises a seat portion 12 and an extension 14. Layers 16, 20 and 24 are flow control layers, while optional layer 30 may be used as fluid barrier layer. The layers may include ports 26, 28 in the extension to provide access to the interior of the insert (e.g. for air movement). The layers may also include flow holes 32 to provide air movement through the insert or from the insert through the trim surface.
  • [0017]
    Another suitable embodiment of the insert is shown in FIG. 2. The insert 50 comprises a thermoformed top layer 52 or a thermoformed bottom layer 54 where the seat portion 56 and the extension 58 are formed such that collapse of the extension during installation or use is reduced because the extension is preformed to its installed shape.
  • [0018]
    The molded layer may be a relatively planar layer without structures on the layer, like a film or laminate, with or without ports, flow holes or other through holes. In another embodiment, the molded layer may include structures that interrupt an otherwise planar layer. Such structures may include air flow conduits, walls at the edge of the layer, walls that segment the interior of the layer, the like and combinations thereof. In one embodiment, one or more conduits are formed on conduits are formed on an otherwise planar layer. In another embodiment, the edge walls may be used to create a molded layer with depth to serve as a receptacle for other layers of the insert (e.g. a spacer). The interior walls may be used to create air flow conduits within the insert. For example, interior walls may be used in combination with edge walls to create conduits in the seat portion of the insert.
  • [0019]
    Additionally, other structures may be used on the molded layer to provide structural integrity to the insert. For example, protrusions, buttons, bumps, mounds, wall segments or the like may be used to support other layers of the insert while also allowing air flow through the insert to be maintained. In one use, the extension may be bent or folded when assembled with the other components of the seat or otherwise deformed during use. Such bending, folding or deformation may cause the air flow through the insert to be reduced or eliminated due to the collapse of the layers of the insert. By using protrusions or the like in the extension the collapse of the extension by reduced or eliminated. In another embodiment, protrusions or the like are utilized in the seat portion to reduce or prevent collapse of the insert due to the weight of the occupant or help locate the spacer material within the insert. In one embodiment, the structures are located on the same side as the walls that are optionally use to segment the layer. In another embodiment, the structures are located on the side opposite from the walls. These may be used to provide integrity, especially for flexible portions of the layer such as the extension. A series of ridges may be used to prevent over bending of the extension.
  • [0020]
    One embodiment of a molded layer is shown in FIG. 3. The molded layer 100 includes a seat portion 102 and an extension 104. The seat portion is generally planar and includes edges walls 106 and 108. The seat portion and the extension may also include conduits 110 to facilitate air movement to or from the seat surface or through the insert. The area between the conduits may be filled with a space material (not shown), as discussed herein. The extension may also include structures 112 to help provide structural integrity to the extension when it is bent or folded.
  • [0021]
    The structures of the molded layer may include zigzags, S-shapes, straight lines, concentric circles, ovals, protrusions of circular, rectangular, diamond or other shape, or combinations thereof. The structures may be placed in a regular pattern or irregularly on the planar portion of the molded layer. The structures may be placed evenly or unevenly throughout the molded layer and/or limited to a particular area of the layer (e.g. the extension).
  • [0022]
    Preferably, the molded layer is manufactured in a single process step, such that the layer and the included structures are made in one process step. Such a single reduces the complexing of the insert manufacturing process. However, this is not necessarily the case and structures may be made before, during or after the rest of the layer and the components of the layer subsequently attached together. For example, an adhesive or a welding technique (e.g. thermal, ultrasonic or RF) may be used to attach the components of the molded layer together.
  • [0023]
    In one preferred embodiment, the molded layer is attached to another layer of the insert with a fluid tight seal around some or the entire perimeter of the insert. The seal may be made by bonding the layers together after or during manufacture of one or both of the layers, such as by using an adhesive, thermal welding, ultrasonic welding, RF welding or the like or combinations thereof. In one preferred embodiment, the molded layer is attached to a film. In one preferred embodiment, one layer is extruded while the other layer is molded. In another embodiment, both layers are molded and attached during curing to achieve the seal between the layers. Alternately, the two layers may be co-molded.
  • [0024]
    The molded layer may be manufactured according to any known molding techniques including injection molding, two part molding, vacuum molding, thermoforming, reaction injection molding, etc. In one embodiment, the molded layer is injection molded thus providing a molded layer via a cost effective method. The method is particularly preferred for inserts that do not require an extension. Collapse of the extension from bending or deformation is reduced or eliminated as a source of performance degradation.
  • [0025]
    In another embodiment, the molded layer is thermoformed, which provides greater ability to define the shape of molded layer. For example, for an insert that includes an extension, thermoforming provides an extension that is preformed to the assembled shape of the insert, thus reducing or eliminating the need to bend or deform the molded layer during installation of the insert into the seat. Thus, through thermoforming collapse of the extension can be reduced or eliminated.
  • [0026]
    Preferred materials used in the molded layer may include any suitable material. Generally, the material should be air impermeable while being sufficiently durable to withstand use in an automobile seat. In addition, the material should provide dimensional stability to the layer without excessive weight. Consequently materials that may be made thinner are preferred. In one aspect, a foamed material is used, while in another aspect an unfoamed material is used. Of course, combinations of materials may be used such as in a laminate. Unformed materials are preferred for thermoforming application. Suitable thicknesses range from a few mils for films to several millimeters. One preferred range is between about 2 and about 7 millimeters, while another preferred range is about 1 mil to about 10 mils.
  • [0027]
    Some suitable materials for the molded layer include acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonates (PC), PC/ABS blends, flexible or rigid polyvinylchloride, flexible or rigid thermoplastic polyurethane, polybutylene terephthalate, polyamide, polyethylene, polypropylene, combinations thereof and the like.
  • [0028]
    The insert may include a spacer, which may be located between two layers of the insert. The spacer may be any structure, material or combination of materials and/or structures that permits fluid flow through the material while also providing a measure of support for a seat occupant. The spacers should not collapse under the weight of a seat occupant and maintain the fluid communication through the spacer. As one example, the spacer may include rubber, foam plastic or the like. In one aspect, the spacer may include a reticulated foam.
  • [0029]
    The spacer may include a plurality of members or fibers that are preferably spaced apart from each other to provide open space therebetween while still being close enough together to provide cushion and support. One preferred spacer is formed of polymeric (e.g., polyester) strand material that is interwoven to provide opposing honeycomb structures (e.g., fabric panels), which are interconnected by several additional polymeric strand materials to provide open space between the structures while still providing cushion and support. As an example, one preferred material is sold under the tradename 3MESH® and is commercially available from Müller Textil GmbH, Germany or Müller Textiles, Inc., R.I., USA.
  • [0030]
    Another preferred spacer is formed of a polymeric material in a helix held between two sheets of material. Preferably, the helix is oblong in order to provide increased area on the helix for attachment of the helix to the sheets of material. The helix may be tightly wound such that adjacent courses of the helix touch or loosely wound such that there is no touching of adjacent courses of the helix. Typically, multiple helices are placed adjacent (abutting or otherwise) to one another in order to form a spacer. Exemplary helical material is discussed in international applications PCT/DE04/000540 and PCT/DE04/000541, both files Mar. 17, 2004, both of which are incorporated by references.
  • [0031]
    Exemplary optional layers for the insert include those having a heater. Various different types of heaters are suitable for incorporation into a car seat and it is contemplated that any of such heaters may be incorporated into the inserts of the present invention. Such heaters typically incorporate flexible, electrical heating elements that are preferably thin, flat, non-obtrusive or a combination thereof. As examples, a lay-wire heater, a carbon fiber heater, a positive thermal coefficient (PTC) heater, a thermoelectric heater or the like, which are typically supported with a backing (e.g., a cloth or fabric type backing) may be used within the insert. In a preferred embodiment, the heater is a carbon fiber type heater with a backing (e.g., a non-woven layer). One exemplary preferred heater is sold under the tradename CARBOTEX® and commercially available from W.E.T. Automotive Systems, Inc. in Germany and/or FTG Fraser-Technik GmbH. An example of such a heater is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,064,037, issued May 16, 2000, herein expressly incorporated by reference for all purposes. A combination heater/cooler in the form of a flexible sheet of TEDs may be a suitable optional layer. Flexible sheet TEDs include those discussed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,700,052, which is incorporated by reference. Other coolers may includes those described in U.S. provisional application 60/505,806, filed Sep. 25, 2003, which is incorporated by reference.
  • [0032]
    Suitable optional trim surfaces include seat covers that are part of the insert or separate from the insert, but generally separate the insert from the seat occupant. The trim surface may be any suitable material, including but not limited to at least one synthetic material, natural material (e.g., wool, leather or otherwise), or combination thereof. In one embodiment the trim surface includes perforations over at least a portion of the seating surface through which air or other fluid may pass. In another embodiment the cover is substantially free of perforations. For example, perforated or non-perforated leather may be used to separate the seat occupant from the insert, while a fleece material may be used as part of the insert to increase moisture wicking or otherwise provide a protective layer.
  • [0033]
    The insert of the present invention may be a separate unit that is assembled in a space between a seat cushion and the trim surface, integrally formed in the seat cushion, integrally formed in the trim surface, or any combination thereof.
  • [0034]
    One or more adhesive layers may be used to assist in the assembly of the inserts. The adhesive layers are preferably formed of a hot melt adhesive although this is not necessarily required. The adhesive may be provided as a web or otherwise and may be continuous or non continuous (e.g., may be applied in drops, dabs or the like). The adhesive sub-layers may include polyamides, polyesters, elastomers, urethanes, olefin polymers or a combination thereof. Moreover, the adhesives may be formulated as desired for particular processing parameters or conditions. Preferably, the adhesive sub-layers are substantially free of anti-blocking solutions, blowing additives, process contaminants or the like which might interfere with adhesive performance. As an example, one suitable hot melt adhesive is commercially available as a non-woven web under the tradename SPUNFAB® from Spunfab, Ltd. 175 Muffin Lane, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44223. Other techniques instead of or in addition to adhesive may be used, such a thermal, ultrasonic, or RF welding.
  • [0035]
    In addition to the insert, the present invention includes a system that provides heating, cooling, ventilation or combinations thereof. The system has an insert and one or more different components that facilitate the operation of the insert. For example, the system may include an air mover assembly, a temperature conditioning device, one or more attachment components, one or more valves, one or more sensors and/or one or more controls. In addition, one or more conduits may be used to provide fluid communication between components of the system such as between the fan and the insert or between the insert and the temperature conditioning device.
  • [0036]
    The air mover assembly provides motive force to move air (whether conditioned, ambient, pushed, pulled and combinations thereof) through the insert. The assembly may be used to push air to the insert or pull air from the insert. The assembly may also be used to both push and pull air. For example, an assembly with a fan having at least two sets of fan blades (e.g. with vanes that are opposite in direction) that share a common axis and form a binary fan that is able to both push and pull air may be used. Multiple fans may also be used in the assembly. The assembly may also include an annular inlet, although assemblies that are free of annular inlets are also contemplated. Included in the definition of fan are impellers (including bidirectional impellers), blowers, or the like. The fan also refers to devices that provide motive force to move other fluids (e.g. liquids) through the insert. The fan may provide a steady fluid flow, a pulsating fluid flow, an oscillating fluid flow, or the like.
  • [0037]
    The temperature conditioning device may be any device that heats or cools fluid. The device may be a combination of devices where one component provides heating and another component provides cooling. Preferably, one device or system provides both heating and cooling. The device may be an external device such as the HVAC system in the building or vehicle where the seat is located or an internal device meaning that the device is not connected (other than to a power supply) to the building or vehicle where the seat is located. In addition to providing temperature conditioning, the temperature conditioning device may also dehumidify the fluid (e.g. air).
  • [0038]
    Preferably, the temperature conditioning device is a self contained or solid state device that both cools and heats air. The most preferred device is a peltier or thermoelectric device (TED). TEDs are commercially available devices that provide solid state heating and cooling by passing electricity through the device. TEDs include a waste side and an active side, which are relative designations depending whether warm or cool temperature conditioned air is desired. Any supplier of TEDs would be able to provide suitable devices for use in the present invention. The invention. The TED may be combined with any useful heat dissipation device; e.g. heat sinks, heat exchangers, fans, heat pipes or the like. A refrigeration absorption system may also be used as a temperature conditioning device.
  • [0039]
    The attachment component is a frame member that preferably defines a location for the attachment of the air mover assembly, temperature conditioning device, a conduit, a bellows or other component to the insert. It is contemplated that the frame member may be in a variety of configurations (e.g., annular, rectangular, square, polygonal or otherwise) and may be formed of a variety of preferably rigid or semi-rigid materials (e.g. metal, plastic or the like). In some aspects, the attachment component also helps define a port. In one preferred embodiment, the attachment component cooperates with structures and/or materials (e.g. snap fit fasteners) on the fan, the temperature conditioning device or other components to connect the device or component to the attachment component.
  • [0040]
    One or more valves may be used to redirect fluid flow through the system to make use of unused energy (i.e. the fluid is hotter than ambient) or energy capacity (i.e. the fluid is colder than ambient) in the fluid. For example, the valves may be used to vent fluid to ambient to dispose of un-needed energy stored in the fluid. The valves may also be used to redirect fluid to components of the system (e.g. the temperature conditioning device) to either warm or cool such components. In addition, a valve may be used to optionally recirculate fluid within system to create a closed or partially closed system.
  • [0041]
    A variety of sensors may be included in the system such as temperature sensors, humidity sensors, current sensors, occupant detection sensor, weight sensors or the like. Sensors may be placed throughout the system. For example, temperature sensors may be place within the spacer, between spacers, between the spacer and the molded layer or other optional layer (e.g. reticulated foam or seat cover), near the temperature conditioning device, near the fan, and combinations thereof.
  • [0042]
    One or more controllers may be used to receive inputs from the sensors or a used control device, to issue instructions to the fan and temperature conditioning device, and/or to otherwise coordinate the operation of the system.
  • [0043]
    The insert with a molded layer may be incorporated into a larger seat system for providing heating, cooling, ventilation, etc. to a vehicle occupant by way of the occupant's seat. Several such systems are known and the present molded layer insert may be used as an additional component of such systems or they may be used as a substitute for one or more of the components of such systems.
  • [0044]
    For example, the molded layer insert may be added on to the seats of U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,786,541; 6,629,724; 6,840,576, 6,869,140, and related applications and patents or to the seats of U.S. Patent Publication 2004-0189061. In addition, the molded layer insert may used in combination with the seats of U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,893,086; 6,869,139; 6,857,697; 6,676,207; 6,619,736; 6,604,426; 6,439,658; 6,164,719; 5,921,314, and related applications and patents, or U.S. Patent Publications 2005-0173950; 2005-0161986; 2005-0140189; 2005-0127723; 2005-0093347; 2005-0085968; 2005-0067862; 2005-0067401; 2005-0066505; 2004-0169028, and related applications. All patents and publications are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • [0045]
    The seat system comprises at least one of a seat or backrest, armrest, bolster or like component, having a cushion, a thermal change insert and a trim surface. In one embodiment, an air mover assembly is utilized to provide temperature conditioned air to the seat, which may be used convectively or conductively heat or cool the seat or occupant.
  • [0046]
    In one embodiment, temperature conditioned air may be blown across the occupant through a permeable trim surface from the seat cushion thus providing convective heating or cooling to the seat and occupant. As shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,869,139 and 6,857,697, the cushion may contain a passageway through the cushion for circulating temperature conditioned air to the seat surface through the insert. A variety of other optional features disclosed in these patents may be included in the seat systems of the present invention, such as sub-passageways, deflectors, air-impermeable linings or coating or the like. For example, an insert with through-holes may be placed over the sub-passageways to moderate or direct the air blown on the occupant. A molded layer may be used as a flow control layer or as a fluid barrier layer. A certain amount of conductive cooling may also be achieved through the use of this system.
  • [0047]
    In another embodiment, conductive heating or cooling may be provided to the occupant occupant by providing temperature conditioned air to the insert such that the air is not blown across the occupant. For example, through the use of an air impermeable trim surface, temperature conditioned air is circulated to an molded layer insert having an open space is located underneath the impermeable trim surface, with air blown or drawn into the insert for the purpose of conductively heating or cooling the insert and thus the occupant.
  • [0048]
    In another embodiment, conductive and convective heating or cooling may be provided to the occupant. The temperature conditioned air may be combined with ambient air drawn across the occupant and into the seat. Here, ambient air is drawn through the trim surface and into a mixing region underneath the trim surface where the ambient air is combined with the temperature conditioned air. The mixed air is then circulated away from the seat either to be exhausted or to be recirculated back to the evaporator and/or the mixing region. The ambient air provides convective cooling (or heating), while the temperature conditioned air provided conductive cooling or heating. A plurality of air movers may be used to draw ambient air into the mixing region and to provide temperature conditioned to the mixing region, whether by blowing or drawing. In one embodiment, the mixing region is an open space contained in a molded layer insert. Examples of seats comprising mixing regions include U.S. Patent Publication 2005-0067862 and 2005-0066505.
  • [0049]
    Temperature conditioned air may be generated through connection to the HVAC system of the vehicle, through a self-contained system or through a combination of systems. Self-contained system included those that are not connected to the HVAC system of the vehicle and may include thermoelectric devices, absorption refrigeration systems or components, heating elements, and combinations thereof.
  • [0050]
    In addition, the molded layer insert may be combined with other systems or devices to provide temperature regulation to an occupant. For example, heating elements may be utilized to provide heating to the vehicle seat. In one embodiment, the heating element is provided between the trim surface and the seat cushion or insert of the seat. In another embodiment, the heating element is incorporated into the insert, whether incorporated on the molded layer or not. While not preferred but still acceptable, thermoelectric devices may be used to provide heating to the vehicle seat, particularly if the thermoelectric device is otherwise utilized in the vehicle and generates waste energy that may be recaptured for use in temperature control of the seat.
  • [0051]
    The present invention also relates to methods of heating, cooling and ventilating a vehicle seat. The methods comprise circulating temperature conditioned air through a system that comprises an insert having at least one molded layer.
  • [0052]
    It will be further appreciated that functions or structures of a plurality of components or steps may be combined into a single component or step, or the functions or structures of one-step or component may be split among plural steps or components. The present invention contemplates all of these combinations. Unless stated otherwise, dimensions and geometries of the various structures depicted herein are not intended to be restrictive of the invention, and other dimensions or geometries are possible. Plural structural components or steps can be provided by a single integrated structure or step. Alternatively, a single integrated structure or step might be divided into separate plural components or steps. In addition, while a feature of the present invention may have been described in the context of only one of the illustrated embodiments, such feature may be combined with one or more other features of other embodiments, for any given application. It will also be appreciated from the above that the fabrication of the unique structures herein and the operation thereof also constitute methods in accordance with the present invention.
  • [0053]
    The explanations and illustrations presented herein are intended to acquaint others skilled in the art with the invention, its principles, and its practical application. Those skilled in the art may adapt and apply the invention in its numerous forms, as may be best suited to the requirements of a particular use. Accordingly, the specific embodiments of the present invention as set forth are not intended as being exhaustive or limiting of the invention. The scope of the invention should, therefore, be determined not with reference to the above description, but should instead be determined with reference to the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled. The disclosures of all articles and references, including patent applications and publications, are incorporated by reference for all purposes.
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U.S. Classification297/180.1
International ClassificationA47C31/00
Cooperative ClassificationB60N2/5635, A47C7/74, A47C7/02
European ClassificationA47C7/02, A47C7/74, B60N2/56C4F
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