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Publication numberUS20060175877 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/348,701
Publication date10 Aug 2006
Filing date7 Feb 2006
Priority date7 Feb 2005
Also published asCN101115642A, CN101115642B, EP1851087A1, WO2006086320A1
Publication number11348701, 348701, US 2006/0175877 A1, US 2006/175877 A1, US 20060175877 A1, US 20060175877A1, US 2006175877 A1, US 2006175877A1, US-A1-20060175877, US-A1-2006175877, US2006/0175877A1, US2006/175877A1, US20060175877 A1, US20060175877A1, US2006175877 A1, US2006175877A1
InventorsCorina Alionte, Robert McMillen, Jintao Liu, Iulian Mitea, Jianlin (Daniel) Zhang
Original AssigneeL&P Property Management Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Heat, cool, and ventilate system for automotive applications
US 20060175877 A1
Abstract
A ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system for a vehicle seat, comprising a cushion comprising a ventilation layer comprising non-woven plastic fibers fused together in such a manner as to permit airflow therethrough, the ventilation layer having a seat surface side and a reverse side, wherein the ventilation layer is disposed within a substantially air-tight compartment having an access hole for air input on the reverse side of the ventilation layer and a plurality of output holes on the seat surface side; an adjustable ergonomic support device, wherein the ergonomic support device is disposed on the reverse side of the ventilation layer and moves together with the cushion; a temperature regulation system comprising an air-moving device operably coupled to the access hole on the reverse side of the ventilation layer, such that the air-moving device moves conditioned air into the ventilation layer and out through the plurality of output holes; and a control module comprising controls for controlling operation of the temperature regulation system and the ergonomic support device, wherein the seat surface is maintained at a temperature.
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Claims(35)
1. A ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system for a vehicle seat, comprising:
a cushion comprising a ventilation layer comprising non-woven plastic fibers fused together in such a manner as to permit airflow therethrough, the ventilation layer having a seat surface side and a reverse side, wherein the ventilation layer is disposed within a substantially air-tight compartment having an access hole for air input on the reverse side of the ventilation layer and a plurality of output holes on the seat surface side;
an adjustable ergonomic support device, wherein the ergonomic support device is disposed on the reverse side of the ventilation layer and moves together with the cushion;
a temperature regulation system comprising an air-moving device operably coupled to the access hole on the reverse side of the ventilation layer, such that the air-moving device moves air into the ventilation layer and out through the plurality of output holes; and
a control module comprising controls for controlling operation of the temperature regulation system and the ergonomic support device, wherein a seating surface of the seat is maintained at a predetermined temperature.
2. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 1 wherein the seating surface is maintained at a temperature determined by a thermistor.
3. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 2 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises an air temperature adjusting system for adjusting the temperature of air that is moved out through the plurality of output holes on the seat surface side of the ventilation layer.
4. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 3 wherein the thermistor comprises a positive temperature coefficient thermistor-based heating device.
5. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 4 wherein the air temperature adjusting system further comprises a thermoelectric device operably coupled to the air-moving device.
6. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 5 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises a temperature sensor below a seat surface material to sense the temperature of the seat surface material, wherein the temperature sensor is insulated from surrounding air currents.
7. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 6 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises a proportional, integral, and derivative controller.
8. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 5 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises a positive temperature coefficient thermistor-based heater in the air duct.
9. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 7 wherein the control module is disposed within the vehicle seat.
10. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 5 wherein the air-moving device and the thermoelectric device share a single pair of power leads.
11. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 3 wherein the ventilation layer further comprises a second layer of non-woven plastic fibers adjacent the seat surface side of the ventilation layer, wherein the second layer of non-woven plastic fibers is fused together to permit airflow therethrough but is more compressible than the ventilation layer.
12. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 7 wherein the ergonomic support device is a lumbar support.
13. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 12 wherein the lumbar support is a belt-style lumbar support.
14. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 1 wherein the cushion further comprises a base cushion that is disposed between the ergonomic support device and the reverse side of the ventilation layer, the base cushion having a hole therethrough to permit air flow into the ventilation layer.
15. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 14 wherein the base cushion is divided into a plurality of vertically-adjacent sections by at least one horizontally-disposed channel.
16. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 15 wherein the ventilation layer is divided into a plurality of vertically-adjacent sections by the at least one horizontally-disposed channel, such that the plurality of sections of the ventilation layer are separated from one another.
17. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 16 wherein the air-moving device is operably coupled to the plurality of vertically-adjacent sections of the ventilation layer by a manifold.
18. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 16 further comprising a plurality of air-moving devices, wherein each of the plurality of vertically-adjacent sections of the manifold has an air-moving device operably coupled thereto.
19. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 15 wherein the ergonomic support device interacts with a single section.
20. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 15 wherein the ventilation layer curves around the at least one horizontally-disposed channel.
21. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 1 further comprising a trim layer adjacent the seat surface side of the ventilation layer, wherein the trim material is air-permeable.
22. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 1 further comprising overmolding of foam on an edge of the ventilation layer.
23. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 17 further comprising overmolding of the manifold with foam onto the cushion.
24. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 1 further comprising a lateral bolster, wherein the lateral bolster comprises non-woven plastic fibers fused together in such a manner as to permit airflow therethrough.
25. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 5 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises a positive temperature coefficient thermistor-based heater adjacent to the heating side of the thermoelectric device.
26. The ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 5 wherein the temperature regulation system further comprises positive temperature coefficient thermistor to sense a temperature of at least one of the vehicle seat and the thermoelectric device.
27. A control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system for a vehicle seat, comprising:
a control module;
a thermoelectric device comprising a thermoelectric module and a heat sink attached to the thermoelectric module;
a seat temperature sensor attached to the vehicle seat trim material, such that the seat temperature sensor only measures the temperature of the vehicle seat trim material;
an air-moving device configured to move air across the heat sink of the thermoelectric device and towards a seating surface of the vehicle seat;
an adjustable ergonomic device attached to the vehicle seat;
wherein the control module is operably connected to the thermoelectric device, the seat temperature sensor, the air-moving device, and the adjustable ergonomic device to control heating, cooling, ventilation, and ergonomic comfort for a seat occupant.
28. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27 further comprising a positive temperature coefficient thermistor-based heater, wherein the heater is in a path of air flow of the air-moving device.
29. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27 further comprising a positive temperature coefficient thermistor at a surface of the heat sink, wherein the thermistor is configured to sense an overheat condition of the heat sink.
30. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27 wherein the control module further comprises a user control interface.
31. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27 wherein the thermoelectric device and the air-moving device share a single set of power leads.
32. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 28, wherein the positive temperature coefficient heater is powered only during warm-up of the thermoelectric device.
33. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27, wherein the control module comprises a proportional, integral, and derivative controller.
34. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27, further comprising an air duct operably coupled to the air-moving device and a positive temperature coefficient thermistor-based heater disposed within the air duct.
35. The temperature control system for a ventilation, temperature regulation, and ergonomic comfort system of claim 27, wherein the control module is disposed within the vehicle seat.
Description
    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/650,763, filed Feb. 7, 2006,
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0003]
    The present invention relates to an air ventilation and conditioning apparatus for seats in general, and in particular vehicle seats.
  • [0004]
    2. Background
  • [0005]
    The automotive seat market faces the challenge of the high demand for comfort. This not only involves stability and position on the seat but also temperature and moisture of the seat. Heating and cooling add tremendous comfort to the customers as they adapt to the climatic situation and the body temperature.
  • [0006]
    A challenge in the last years in the seating industry increases the demand for offering lumbar support systems combined with seat heating/ventilation/cooling in order to respond to customer expectations.
  • [0007]
    The present state of technology for providing a seat support with a soft feel has been to use polyurethane foam or gummihair. These technologies have been in the automotive market place for many years and have met the needs for the applications. Future demands from consumers are to incorporate additional features into seats such as heating, cooling, and ventilation. Current foam technologies have limitations in these applications as they do not allow free air movement through the product very well and have high levels of thermal mass, which decreases the effect of heating or cooling on the surface until the foam reaches the required temperature.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0008]
    A solution to the challenges described above is to utilize a polyester fiber fill product in conjunction with, or replacing, the conventional foam bun. Key advantages for the fiber support include improved breathability (eliminating perspiration and humidity from under occupant) as well as the fact that the material can be recycled, is lighter than foam, and provides improved noise attenuation, all while still providing mechanical properties equivalent to those of foam.
  • [0009]
    The present invention is a seat heat, cool, and ventilation system designed to operate with a vehicle seat, preferably a vehicle seat with an integrated comfort system. The seat heat, cool, and ventilation system includes a meshwork of plastic fibers, preferably polyester, fused together in such a manner as to permit airflow therethrough, the meshwork makes up at least part of the seat cushioning material. The meshwork in a preferred embodiment is encapsulated in a relatively air-impermeable compartment having a limited number of holes, so that air forced into the compartment exits in a limited region of the seat, preferably where the occupant contacts the seating surface.
  • [0010]
    Further areas of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating the preferred embodiment of the invention, are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0011]
    The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:
  • [0012]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0013]
    FIG. 2 is a side view of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0014]
    FIG. 3A is a cross-section of a fiber pad with open fiber construction;
  • [0015]
    FIG. 3B shows a cross-section of a fiber pad with an impermeable barrier layer or sealed layer construction;
  • [0016]
    FIG. 3C shows a cross-section of a fiber pad with a semi-permeable barrier layer;
  • [0017]
    FIG. 4A shows a side view of one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 4B shows a rear view of one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 4C shows a side view of another embodiment of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 4D shows a side view of a manifold overmolded into place;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 4E shows a side view of a cushion edge that is overmolded with foam;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 4F shows a side view of the end of a manifold embedded in a base pad;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 4G shows a side view of a flange that is attached to the air-permeable fiber ventilation layer;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 4H shows a side view of a wire overmolded into a foam support pad and attached via a ring to the trim layer;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 5A shows a multilayer arrangement of air-permeable fiber mesh pads with fasteners to hold the pads in place, having a heat-sealed edge;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 5B shows a multilayer arrangement of air-permeable fiber mesh pads with fasteners to hold the pads in place, having a heat-sealed edge, with an air-permeable heating layer between the two fiber layers;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 6A shows a multilayer arrangement of air-permeable fiber mesh pads, with a sewn edge;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 6B shows a multilayer arrangement of air-permeable fiber mesh pads, with a sewn edge, with an air-permeable heating layer between the two fiber layers;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 7 shows one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat, showing the use of an optional guard and filter to diffuse air coming from the air-moving device;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 8 shows one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 9A shows an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 9B shows a front view of one embodiment of a comfort module based on a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0033]
    FIG. 9C shows a rear view of an embodiment of a comfort module based on a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 9D shows a top view of an embodiment of a comfort module based on a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 10A shows a front view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a wire flex mat support;
  • [0036]
    FIG. 10B shows a rear view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a wire flex mat support;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 11A shows a rear view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0038]
    FIG. 11B shows a front view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a belt-style lumbar support;
  • [0039]
    FIG. 12A shows a front view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a flex mat lumbar support;
  • [0040]
    FIG. 12B shows a rear view of an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat using a flex mat lumbar support;
  • [0041]
    FIG. 13 shows an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat wherein the support pad is a fiber mesh pad;
  • [0042]
    FIG. 14 shows an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat wherein the support pad and bolsters are fiber mesh pads;
  • [0043]
    FIG. 15 shows an embodiment of an integrated comfort seat wherein the ventilation layer and second, or outer, layer of fiber mesh are produced together as a single product;
  • [0044]
    FIG. 16 shows an embodiment of a comfort module based on a flex mat support;
  • [0045]
    FIG. 17A shows a side view of one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0046]
    FIG. 17B shows a perspective view of one embodiment of an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0047]
    FIGS. 18A-18D show various embodiments of integrated comfort seats;
  • [0048]
    FIG. 19A shows an anchor connector for attaching seat trim material to a wire flex mat;
  • [0049]
    FIG. 19B shows seat trim material attached to a wire flex mat;
  • [0050]
    FIG. 19C shows seat trim material attached to a wire flex mat with the air-permeable fiber ventilation layer going around the attachment point;
  • [0051]
    FIGS. 20A-20C show various embodiments of integrated comfort seats;
  • [0052]
    FIG. 21 shows an embodiment of a control module for an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0053]
    FIG. 22 shows another embodiment of a control module for an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0054]
    FIG. 23A shows an embodiment of a thermoelectric module for an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0055]
    FIG. 23B shows another embodiment of a thermoelectric module for an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0056]
    FIG. 23C shows another embodiment of a thermoelectric module for an integrated comfort seat;
  • [0057]
    FIG. 23D shows another embodiment of a thermoelectric module for an integrated comfort seat.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0058]
    The following description of the preferred embodiment(s) is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the invention, its application, or uses.
  • [0059]
    An integrated comfort seat 100 comprises an ergonomic support device 110 such as a lumbar support 120 as well as a cushion 130 having an air-permeable ventilation layer 140 (FIGS. 1-2). In some embodiments cushion 130 also comprises a second layer 220 of fiber, as discussed below. Coupled to ventilation layer 140 is an air-moving device 150 such as a fan or blower. In general integrated comfort seat 100 comprises one or more comfort modules 105, each having one or more heat, cool, ventilate, and ergonomic support features, attached to a seat frame 107. Cushioning and trim material may be integrated into comfort modules 105, may be integral to seat frame 107, or may be added to seat 100 after assembly of comfort modules 105. Other methods of assembling the disclosed comfort modules 105 to produce an integrated comfort seat 100 are possible and are within the scope of the invention.
  • [0060]
    For comfort of the seat occupant as well as to allow air movement through the seat, ergonomic support device 110 is overlaid with one or more support pads 160, which in turn are overlaid with the air-permeable ventilation layer 140. Although foam, such as urethane foam, can be employed for ventilation layer 140, a preferred embodiment utilizes a fibrous meshwork 170 comprising a non-woven polyester fiber fill, the manufacture and use of which is described in detail below. In contrast to fibrous mesh, current foam technologies have limitations in these applications as they do not readily permit free air movement through the product and have high levels of thermal mass, which decreases the effect of heating or cooling on the surface until the foam reaches the required temperature.
  • [0061]
    The apparatus and methods of assembly disclosed herein are adaptable for use with a number of different ergonomic support devices in general and in particular to lumbar support devices such as are mounted on a seat back, including the numerous archable pressure surfaces (FIG. 16), belt-style lumbar supports (FIG. 11A), and flex mat wire-based supports (FIG. 10A) that are well known to those skilled in the art. Also, the apparatus and methods are adaptable for use with lumbar supports and other ergonomic devices that are programmed to provide massage by repeated cycling of the adjustment mechanisms.
  • [0062]
    In one embodiment a foam bun is used for structural purposes as a support pad 160 while air is circulated through the ventilation layer 140 comprising fibrous meshwork 170 disposed on top of the foam bun. In this case one or more holes 180 are formed in the foam bun to permit air flow 152 through the foam to fiber mesh ventilation layer 140 (FIG. 2). In another embodiment seat 100 has lateral bolsters 190 made of foam, laterally disposed on either side of the seat back (FIG. 2). In addition, there are foam support pads 160 underlying the main seating surface. In another embodiment the foam support pads 160 underlying the main seating surface can be replaced with additional fiber mesh pads (FIG. 13). Replacing these foam pads with additional fiber mesh pads saves weight and lowers the thermal mass of the cushion as a whole, allowing the seat to heat or cool more rapidly. The additional fiber mesh pads can optionally be circulated with air or not, depending on the application. In yet another embodiment, the foam-based lateral bolsters 190 can also be replaced with fiber mesh pads (FIG. 14), again with optional circulation of air through the fiber-based lateral bolsters 190.
  • [0063]
    In one embodiment the fibrous mesh ventilation layer 140 is encapsulated by a non-permeable barrier layer 148 of air-tight material(s) such as non-permeable plastic sheeting (FIG. 3B). The air-tight encapsulation has a limited number of openings, such as hole 180 which is provided for air intake through via air-moving device 150 along with those openings that are provided for exhaust through one or more holes or slits 200. On the distal or reverse side of the mesh, away from the seat occupant, air-moving device 150 such as a fan or blower is disposed so as to move air into the cavity of ventilation layer 140 formed by the encapsulation. On the proximal, seating surface side of the mesh, closer to the occupant, the sheeting or other encapsulating material 148 has one or more distribution holes or slits 200 to permit air to move out towards the seat occupant. Encapsulating the mesh and providing air holes in the sheeting 148 proximal to the seat occupant has the effect of focusing air flow 152 towards certain areas, which in a preferred embodiment includes the areas where the occupant's body contacts the seat surface.
  • [0064]
    A seat trim layer 210 needs to be made from inherently-breathable materials or perforated leather and in one embodiment is sewn together with a second layer 220 of fiber along a sewn (FIGS. 5A, 5B) or heat-sealed (FIGS. 6A, 6B) region 222, second layer 220 helping with air distribution and homogeneity at the surface of seat 100. In one embodiment second layer 220 is made from polyester fiber with a thickness of approximately 6 to 10 mm with different densities and provides softness and improved breathability at the seat surface, as well as improved air diffusion and distribution. In another embodiment second layer 220 of fiber, i.e. the layer closer to the surface, is softer than the main ventilation layer 140, for added comfort and for shaping of the surface of seat 100. The width of sewn or heat-sealed region 222 along the edge of the fiber pad will depend on a number of factors such as the density of fibers and in one embodiment is approximately 10 mm wide all around (FIGS. 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B).
  • [0065]
    By having multiple fiber layers it is possible to distribute air more evenly across the seating surface. In one embodiment (FIG. 5A) the outer, seating surface of ventilation layer 140 is partially sealed, e.g. by repeated applications of heat to fuse fibers together at the surface, so as to have a limited number of holes for air to escape. Thus, air moving from air-moving device 150 will be deflected and diffused as it moves into ventilation layer 140, since there are a limited number of exit points. This also has the effect of forcing out similar amounts of air across the entire ventilation layer 140 rather than permitting a disproportionate amount of air to exit ventilation layer 140 in the vicinity of air-moving device 150.
  • [0066]
    In another embodiment, the multilayered fiber product 226, with or without seat trim material such as leather attached, can also be manufactured as a separate product for installation on top of conventional seat foam buns, for use alone or as part of an active heat, cool, and ventilate system (FIG. 15).
  • [0067]
    A fan, blower, or other type of air-moving device 150 is attached to a back support module 230 using known fastening means. In one embodiment air-moving device 150 blows air out radially and into a manifold 240 (FIG. 4B), the radial disposition of the fan exhaust permitting the system to achieve a thinner profile. In some embodiments support pad 160 is divided into one or more vertically-adjacent sections 162 by at least one horizontally-disposed channel 164, to permit independent movement of some sections 162 so as to accommodate the movement of ergonomic support device 110. One consequence of splitting support pads 160 is that ventilation layer 140 is also divided into multiple, non-contiguous sections, each of which must receive a supply of air. In one embodiment air-moving device 150 is attached to the upper half of back support module 230, with air being carried to the lower half by manifold 240 or other air-tight pipe, hose, or tubing (FIG. 4A, 4B). In another embodiment ventilation layer 140 is present only on the lower portion of the back support, and thus there is no requirement for manifold 240 (FIG. 4C). In still other embodiments the fan, blower, or other air-moving device 150 is attached directly to lumbar support device 120 (FIGS. 2, 8, 10A, 10B). In some embodiments, one or more fans, blowers, or other air-moving devices 150 are attached to a wire flex mat support 250 and flex mat support 250 is pushed forward in the lumbar region by an archable pressure surface-type lumbar support 120 (FIGS. 16, 17A, 17B, 18A, 18B).
  • [0068]
    In another embodiment, particularly where a fan blows air directly into the fiber pad and in an axial, rather than radial, direction, a guard 260 with an optional filter is placed over the output region of air-moving device 150 to filter and diffuse the air, thus preventing direct ‘read-through’ of the blown air onto the seat occupant's body (FIG. 7). Instead the air is spread more evenly throughout the foam pad and therefore throughout the seating surface for improved comfort.
  • [0069]
    In one embodiment, the support systems of the present invention are separated into upper and lower portions by a horizontal trough, trench, or channel 164 (FIGS. 4A, 4B). In certain embodiments the lower portion has associated therewith an adjustable lumbar support 120, with channel 164 separating the upper and lower portions into independently movable sections. In some embodiments the sections of ventilation layer 140 in the upper and lower portions are separate from one another (FIG. 4A) while in other embodiments ventilation layer 140 runs continuously between the lower and upper portions (FIGS. 16, 17A, 17B). In the case where ventilation layer 140 is separated between the upper and lower portions of the seat support, air must be delivered separately to each portion (FIG. 4A), for example using manifold 240 as described above. In an alternative embodiment, ventilation layer 140 curves around and past channel 164 (FIGS. 16, 17A, 17B), although the curves must be gradual enough to prevent creasing of ventilation layer 140, which could restrict air flow. In this latter embodiment, a single air-moving device 150 is sufficient to deliver air to the entire ventilation layer 140 (FIG. 16), although more than one can nonetheless be employed.
  • [0070]
    In some embodiments the seat cover or trim layer 210 material can be anchored directly to the back support structure, particularly when ventilation layer 140 is separate from trim layer 210 material (FIGS. 19A-19C, 20A-20C). In this case a specialized anchor connector 270 attaches to seat trim layer 210 material and to the back support structure, for example to a wire that is part of wire flex mat back support 250 (FIG. 19A). In another embodiment seat trim layer 210 is anchored to a wire 280 that is embedded in the seat foam, for example by overmolding of the foam onto wire 280, wire 280 being anchored to trim layer 210 by a ring 282 (FIG. 4H).
  • [0071]
    In yet another embodiment the back support is divided into three portions to accommodate a centrally-positioned adjustable lumbar support 120, with two separate horizontal channels 164 dividing the back support into lower, middle, and upper portions (FIGS. 12A-12B). In one embodiment, air is provided to each separate section of ventilation layer 140 by individual air-moving devices 150 being associated with each portion (FIGS. 12A-12B).
  • [0072]
    In one embodiment ventilation layer 140 is encapsulated by sealing the edges by sewing or heat sealing (FIGS. 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B) and by fusing the fibers at the base of the pad by repeated cycles of heat application. The outer portion of the seat pad is covered with an air-permeable seat trim material such as an inherently air-permeable fabric or an impermeable material such as leather that has holes or slits 200 therein for allowing air passage (FIGS. 17A, 18A, 18C, 18D). The holes or slits may be situated so as to coincide with the likely areas of contact between the seat occupant's body and the trim material. As with the plastic sheeting embodiment discussed above, in this embodiment there are also a limited number of openings in the sealed compartment, generally in the base, which allow air to be brought in, while air exits through the air-permeable seat cover.
  • [0073]
    After leaving the hole(s) in the plastic sheeting or other encapsulating material, the ventilation air moves through an optional, air-permeable heating layer 290 and through seat trim layer 210. Seat trim layer 210 may be inherently air-permeable material, such as cloth, or may be a relatively impermeable material such as leather that has been made permeable by creating holes or slits in the material. Air-permeable heating layer is preferably disposed between ventilation layer 140 and seat trim layer 210. The heating material can be of conventional construction, such as resistance wire, carbon fiber, or conductive inks or polymers as is suitable. The attachment of the heater to the fiber pad can be achieved in conventional means such as double-sided adhesive, or by other suitable means known in the art.
  • [0074]
    The heating layer comprises a number of different heating technologies, as described below. As an alternative to air-permeable heating layer 290, warm air is provided to seat 100 by blowing in heated air from another source such as a thermoelectric device (TED) 300 or ambient air, if the ambient air is substantially warmer than seat 100.
  • [0075]
    Although the text and figures focus on the seat back as an exemplary embodiment, the same principles are applied to produce a similar system for the seat base. In those embodiments where the comfort system is applied to the seat back as well as the seat base, the respective structural supports may be either separate pieces or may be a single piece that is hinged at the transition between the seat back and seat base.
  • [0076]
    The basic construction of the fiber mesh material of which ventilation layer 140 is comprised is shown in FIGS. 3A-3C. In FIG. 3A, polyester fibers 142 are formed together into a mat, or fibrous meshwork 170. Fibers 142 bond to each other at points of contact through a heating process, for example by circulating a heated gas such as air through the meshwork. The result is that random open passages 144 are created which allow air to move through fibrous meshwork 170. At the same time fibers 142 are dense and rigid enough to provide support without collapsing. The density of fibrous meshwork 170 can be varied, as well as to a degree the direction of fibers 142. The technology to make the basic fiber and to bond fibers together is well known to those skilled in the art.
  • [0077]
    Fibers 142 can be manufactured to different densities and thicknesses in order to have the air permeability necessary for a complex system. In addition fibers 142 can be processed, for example by thermoforming, to different seat shapes for various designs in body position. In one embodiment, fiber mesh pad layers are overmolded with foam 310 at the edges to produce a finished appearance and to sculpt seat 100 to a desired shape and appearance while still maintaining comfort and structure (FIGS. 4A, 4C, 4E, 4F). In another embodiment the top of ventilation layer 140 is also overmolded with foam 310, which in one embodiment is a relatively thin layer that permits air to flow through. The additional thin layer of foam can be used to add comfort as well as to further shape seat 100, while remaining thin enough so that it does not inhibit air flow.
  • [0078]
    An additional feature that can be created with the fiber product is that of a semi-permeable barrier layer 146 on one side (FIGS. 3C, 5A, 6A). By applying heat to one side of the fiber, the polyester can be reheated, melted and then cooled to form an almost continuous air barrier. This feature can be used in applications for heating and cooling in seats. Also, for providing comfort and performance (heating or cooling) the fiber can be a bi-layer product, with each layer having different densities and fiber types.
  • [0079]
    In one embodiment the fiber pad is connected to support pads 160 by double-sided, peel and stick adhesive or mechanical fastening such as hook and loop fasteners or other suitable fasteners 224 (FIGS. 5A, 5B).
  • [0080]
    In one embodiment the fiber pad is made by mixing polyester fibers having different density and thickness to create the appropriate level of support for comfort seating while still allowing air permeability through the seat surface.
  • [0081]
    In this construction, heating is provided by an electrical heater located between the fiber pad and the cover. The heating material can be of conventional construction, and use resistance wire, carbon fiber, conductive inks or polymers as is suitable. The attachment of the heater to the fiber pad can be achieved in conventional means such as double-sided adhesive, or by unique means which is afforded by the use of a fiber pad.
  • [0082]
    If air-permeable heating layer 290 is used, instead of or in addition to a module in-line with the air circulation system such as a TED, air-permeable heating layer 290 can be situated at several different levels: above, below, or between the fiber mesh pad layers. In general air-permeable heating layer 290 should be in-line with air flow to the surface of seat 100 or at least adjacent to the path of flowing air in order for there to be an effective transfer of heat from the heating layer to the air and subsequently to the seat occupant.
  • [0083]
    An alternative to integrating the heat and cool features directly into comfort module 105 is to import conditioned air from another source such as the vehicle's heating and air conditioning system or from a standalone heat/cool device.
  • [0084]
    In one embodiment heat is provided by a positive thermal coefficient (‘PTC’) based heater 320 with or without thermoelectric device 300 in the path of air flow leading to ventilation layer (FIGS. 2, 7). PTC heaters are ceramic heating elements available in a variety of shapes and sizes which are designed to achieve and hold a factory-determined set-point temperature. Thermoelectric device (‘TED’) 300 comprises a thermoelectric module (‘TEM’) 302, such as a Peltier device, plus a heat sink 304. When a voltage is applied to the Peltier device, a temperature gradient is created across the device, creating a warm side and a cool side. If the cool side of TEM 302 is made warmer by blowing room temperature air across a heat sink attached to the cool side, then the warm side will become hot. Similarly the warm side can be cooled to room temperature to make the cool side much colder. Thus the Peltier device can be used to provide either heating or cooling, depending on which side of TEM 302 is maintained near room temperature, with the resulting hot or cold air being circulated into the seat. Furthermore, the Peltier device can also be switched between heating and cooling by reversing the polarity of the voltage applied to the device. In yet another embodiment heating is provided by a layered product while cooling is achieved with TED 300 as described above. The TED device can be situated anywhere in the path of the air leading to the seat, either upstream or downstream of the fan or blower (FIG. 2), provided that all or most of the air leading to the seat moves across the TED and its associated heat sink 304. In still another embodiment the TED has multiple layers to improve heating and/or cooling functionality.
  • [0085]
    In one embodiment a manifold 240 is used to distribute air to distinct compartments in ventilation layer 140. One opening of manifold 240 is attached to a fan or other air-moving device 150 which forces air into the manifold. The output ports of manifold 240 then lead into the separate air compartments created by the mesh fibers. To simplify assembly manifold 240, which in one embodiment is made of plastic, may be overmolded within the foam support pads 160 of the seat base (FIG. 4A, 4C). Ventilation layer 140 would subsequently be laid on top of support pads 160. Alternatively, access ports for manifold 240 may be molded or cut into support pads 160 to allow subsequent insertion of manifold 240.
  • [0086]
    In another embodiment (FIG. 4D) manifold 240 is placed adjacent the foam support pads 160 in the area of channel 164 such that the openings of manifold 240 are in communication with the adjacent ventilation layer 140, and manifold 140 is then overmolded in place. This overmolding can be performed in conjunction with other overmolding steps such as at the edges of ventilation layer 140. The opening of manifold 240 may be a circular cross-section at the end of a tube or may widen into an elongated slit, which in one embodiment has a length comparable to that of the trench. In one embodiment the distal ends of manifold 240 have ridges or screw-type threads 244 to engage with the foam, which help to keep the manifold in place in the foam (FIG. 4F). In another embodiment a flange 242 is bonded to ventilation layer 140, flange 242 making a connection, e.g. a snap fit, to the end of manifold 240 or other air-delivery duct 370 (FIG. 4G).
  • [0087]
    In one embodiment ventilation layer 140 and second layer of air-permeable fiber 220 are combined into a single multilayered ventilation product 226 which can be installed on conventional seats (FIG. 15).
  • [0088]
    The fiber pads in one embodiment are made of the synthetic material polyester, specifically polyester fiberfill. Combining various types of fiber and bonding methods enables the development of products that achieve desired levels of comfort and durability for the automotive seat market, while still permitting air to permeate the pad when a person is sitting on it. Polyester is recyclable, non-allergenic, and resists growth of mold and mildew. Polyester fiberfill is available in bright, semidull, and dull lusters. The product most often used is semidull and optically brightened. A clean white batting color can improve the presentation of products utilizing lightly colored fabrics.
  • [0089]
    Polyester can be treated with a variety of chemicals; to give it non-flammable characteristics, make it anti-microbial and improve aesthetics and durability. Polyester batting can be made to pass all current mattress flammability standards.
  • [0090]
    Unlike polyurethane foams, polyester (PET) fiber products will not yellow and become brittle when exposed to UV light nor does it produce the high level of toxic gases when exposed to heat.
  • [0091]
    The three methods of bonding are plain, resin bonded and low melt bonded, with a preferred embodiment employing a low melt bonding method. Low melt products are produced with a combination of polyester fibers with different melting temperatures. It can be made with slickened fibers, offering both aesthetics and durability. Using a low melt bonding process, densified batting increases durability and offers greater height recovery. Layering of fibers can be performed by combining fibers of differing deniers, slick/dry fiber combinations, hollow and solid fibers, and blends of any or all of these, to achieve desired quality, price, and performance characteristics.
  • [0092]
    Blends of other fibers including natural materials such as wool, silk, and cashmere can also be mixed with pyron and premium flame retardant (FR) fibers to achieve various results. Pyron is a highly technical FR fiber that consists of oxidized poly-acrylic-nitrile fibers. Those thermally stable oxidized fibers, produced under high heat, resist flames. The fibers char in place and pull heat away from the flame source. Finally, various results can be obtained by layering different fibers, for example using a bi-layered product as mentioned above. The top layer, for example second layer 220, can also include exotic fibers such as wool and silk to enhance comfort.
  • [0093]
    In one embodiment of comfort module 105 a single control module 330 controls all of the seat comfort options disclosed herein. By making the comfort system a single module, assembly and installation of the comfort components into a seat is simplified and thus costs are lowered. In addition to reducing the number of components that must be installed, modular assembly also eliminates the problems that can arise from a manufacturer having to fit together various parts from different suppliers. In one embodiment all of the seat back support and comfort elements are integrated onto a single device (e.g. FIGS. 1, 17B) which can then be readily attached to seat frame 107. In addition the fiber-based air distribution pads described herein are lightweight, recyclable, and resistant to mold and mildew growth, to name a few benefits.
  • [0094]
    Control Module
  • [0095]
    One control module 330 can be used to control all options of seat 100 such as massage, heating, cooling, and ventilation, and all options can be connected to one main body harness. In one embodiment control module 330 provides for pre-heating or pre-cooling of seats; in another embodiment the fan or blower can be powered up in heating mode for a few seconds to improve seat air distribution and heat-up time. To even out the temperature and to keep heat sink 304 from building up moisture in cooling mode, in one embodiment air-moving device 150 runs continuously for a period of time after the cooling elements are switched to the off mode. In another embodiment control module 330 is programmed to run air-moving device 150 at a lower power and thus lower speed (e.g. 30% of full output) until the heating system has warmed up, to avoid blowing cold air onto the seat occupant prior to warming up of the heating element. In another embodiment, seat 100 can be pre-cooled or pre-warmed, as conditions dictate, if the temperature of the ambient air or seat 100 exceeds a preset limit, with the pre-cooling or pre-warming being triggered by opening the vehicle door. In one embodiment pre-cooling of seat 100 is triggered when the seat or ambient air temperature is above 25° C. The duration of pre-heating or pre-cooling is determined by a predetermined temperature drop or a preset amount of time. FIG. 21 shows one embodiment of controller 330, employing a rotating selector knob. Other methods of selecting options such as heat and cool and the temperature thereof, including push buttons with or without light-emitting diodes, are also encompassed within the invention.
  • [0096]
    In one embodiment control module 330 uses temperature feedback from those parts of seat 100 that are to be heated or cooled such as the base cushion or back layer to control the current and/or voltage to air-permeable heating layer 290 and/or thermoelectric device 300 in-line with air-moving device 150 to reach a user-selectable temperature in a minimum time and to keep that temperature constant. In one embodiment a PID (Proportional, Integral and Derivative) controller, well known to those skilled in the art, is used as part of control module 330 to control the temperature of seat 100. After the surface of seat 100 reaches a preset temperature, the fan speed in one embodiment is reduced to decrease the noise if the blower is turned on and to reduce any user discomfort that might arise from excess air movement.
  • [0097]
    In heating mode, the heater, which in one embodiment is air-permeable heating layer 290, will be turned on by the PID controller. In this case, after a delay period (typically 30 seconds), air-moving device 150 will blow air to the occupant at low speed and, after a short period of time, in an intermittent manner. Thus, by using forced air, even when using air-permeable heating layer 290, warm air is forced from the heat layer to the occupant instead of relying only on passive transfer (e.g. conductive heat transfer or local convection currents) to move heat to the occupant through ventilation layer 140 and seat trim layer 210. The advantage is to shorten the heat-up time and achieve a more uniform heating up. The heater, e.g. a PTC-based heater 320, can be a separate heater inside an air duct 370 attached to heat sink 304, and can be used alone or in conjunction with TED 300 operating in heating mode. In this case, air-moving device 150 will blow the air at low speed at the beginning to permit the air to have enough time to be heated up.
  • [0098]
    In cooling mode, TED 300 will be powered and air-moving device 150 will blow cold air to the seat occupant. The optionally PID-based control module 330 will control the current and/or voltage to thermoelectric device 300 as well as the speed of air-moving device 150. If the ambient temperature inside the vehicle is considerably lower than the temperature of seat 100, which in one embodiment is a difference of between 10 to 20 Celsius degrees lower, TED 300 will be shut off and seat 100 will be cooled by blowing ambient air at maximum speed to save energy. When the ambient temperature within the vehicle is closer to the temperature of seat 100, which in one embodiment is a difference of between less than 10 to 20 Celsius degrees, TED 100 will be powered and thus air that is significantly lower than ambient temperature will be blown to the seat surface to effect cooling of seat 100. In one embodiment a temperature sensor 340 is placed near the inlet of air-moving device 150 for a more accurate measurement of the temperature of the ambient air that will be delivered to the surface of seat 100, as well as to achieve a more compact, modular design overall. In another embodiment temperature sensor 340 is placed directly beneath seat trim layer 210 to measure the temperature of seat trim layer 210 itself. In this embodiment temperature sensor is isolated from air flow 152 to sense the temperature of seat trim layer 210 material alone (FIG. 2).
  • [0099]
    A user control interface 334, such as push buttons, knobs and indicators such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be mounted on seat 100 or the vehicle's dash or can stand alone through wired or wireless transmission. A control signal can also be obtained from the vehicle heater and air conditioner control settings, thus eliminating the need for a separate control module.
  • [0100]
    A programmable timer 332 (FIG. 22) can be integrated into control module 330 so that seat 100 can be heated up or cooled down at a certain preset time, for example a particular time of day, and the occupants can immediately enjoy the comfort when they enter the vehicle.
  • [0101]
    A signal from the door unlock by a remote entry system can also be used to turn on the system automatically. In the case where the seat temperature control automatically turns on, for example using a preset timer or the door unlock signal, the module will turn the system on heating or cooling mode based on conditions manually preset by the user, or alternatively based on factory pre-set conditions. For example, in one embodiment control module 330 will activate the cooling mode if the ambient temperature is higher than 25° C. (user-configurable) and it will activate the heating mode if the ambient temperature is lower than 20° C. (user configurable). In one embodiment, if the occupant does not sit on the seat within 10 minutes after the system automatically turns on (through an optional occupant sensor) or the engine is not turned on within this time period, the system will shut off to save power.
  • [0102]
    A temperature sensor 340 attached to TED 300 or its heat sink 304 will be used to prevent overheat of the thermoelectric module, or TEM, 302.
  • [0103]
    Air-moving device 150 will remain on for a certain time (typically 30 seconds) to bring heat sink 304 of TED 300 closer to ambient temperature and thereby prevent any possible build-up of moisture on the cooled TED 300, especially in hot and humid summer weather, before shutting off completely.
  • [0104]
    A memory feature can be added to store the preferred temperature settings for each of several seat occupants.
  • [0105]
    In one embodiment the seat temperature control module 330 is made to operate without a user-adjustable control module, i.e. it is made to be self-adjusting. In this embodiment a user's input would be limited to selecting whether to heat or cool the seat, with the system otherwise being self-adjusting. By using a PTC-based (Positive Temperature Coefficient thermistor) heater 320, wherein a set-point thermistor is integrated into a heating device to maintain a factory-determined temperature, to provide heat either through the air or directly transferred to the occupant, the system will maintain a certain temperature and will not overheat. In an alternative embodiment, a PTC thermistor 350 is used to limit the power to TED 300 even where TED 300 is used for heating, to provide overheat protection.
  • [0106]
    As for cooling, a Negative Temperature Coefficient thermistor (NTC) 360 (FIG. 22) will limit the current to TED 300 when the temperature inside air duct 380, near the occupant, or in the ambient air reaches a certain point. When the temperature surrounding NTC 360 decreases to a certain point the resistance of NTC 360 increases, thereby reducing power to TED 300 and preventing overcooling. Alternatively, PTC thermistor 350 will be put on the ‘hot’ side of TED 300 to limit the power to TED 300.
  • [0107]
    An optional timer can be added to shut off the system after a pre-defined amount of time.
  • [0108]
    The wiring can be changed so that in heating mode, two or three PTC-based heaters 320 can be turned on to achieve a high temperature setting, while two or just one heater can be turned on for a medium temperature setting, and only one or some combination can be turned on for a low temperature setting (FIG. 22). Again, because PTC-based heaters stay at their pre-set temperature, this eliminates the need for a controller or/and temperature sensors. In an alternative embodiment, each PTC heater 320 can be of a different power level, such that turning on a first heater puts the system in low heating mode; turning on a second heater and turning off the first puts the system into medium heating mode; and turning on a third heater while the first and second are off puts the system into high heating mode (FIG. 22).
  • [0109]
    NTC thermistors 360 are put in air duct 370 to sense the cold air in cooling mode (FIG. 22). In an alternative embodiment, PTC thermistors 350 can be put on the hot side of TED 300 either close to or touching heat sink 304 (FIG. 23A) or put in the exhaust air duct 370.
  • [0110]
    The wiring for the PTC or NTC thermistors can be configured to be either in parallel or serial or any combination, as is well known to those skilled in the art.
  • [0111]
    Safety Features:
  • [0112]
    Positive temperature coefficient thermistors (PTCs) 350 can also be used for overheat protection, even in embodiments in which a user-operable control system is employed. In one embodiment a PTC thermistor 350 can be used to prevent TED 300 from overheating in case of control module failure, blower failure, or air duct 370 being blocked, among various possibilities. When TED 300 is working (in this case, not with a PTC in self-adjusting mode), air-moving device 150 must also work to cool down the ‘hot’ side of TED 300. If for any reason air-moving device 150 were to stop working while TED 300 was still powered, TED 300 would overheat, which could cause damage to the system or even seat 100 and may cause safety issues. Two PTCs 350 can be put anywhere near the surface of TED 300, one of each on both sides, and put TED 300 in serial with PTC 350 (FIG. 23A). This way whether TED 300 is in heating or cooling mode the PTC thermistor 350 will shut off the power if either side of TED 300 is overheated. The PTC thermistor 350 will reset itself when the overheating condition is removed.
  • [0113]
    Provision of Overheat Protection without a Temperature Sensor for the TEM
  • [0114]
    The thermoelectric modules that are used here are subject to the Seebeck effect which will generate a voltage because of the temperature difference between the two sides of the thermoelectric module (TEM). When TEM 302 is powered, the current generates a temperature difference between the two sides. If for any reason heat sink 304 that is attached to TEM 302 is not cooled down, e.g. due to blower failure, air duct blockage etc., the temperature difference between the two sides will increase, leading to an increase in voltage due to the Seebeck effect. The result is that the current through TEM 302 will decrease. A current sensor will monitor the current to TEM 302 and the module will shut down or lower the power to TEM 302 if the current is less than 0.5A (typically, this value will depend on the specific type of module) of the normal running current. That is, since current running through the two sides of TEM 302 is proportional to the temperature, the temperature of TEM 302 can be monitored indirectly by monitoring current. When the current running through TEM 302 drops below a certain level, this is taken to indicate an excessive temperature difference between the two sides of TEM 302 and power is decreased or shut off to TEM 302 as necessary. In this way production costs for the control system can be reduced by eliminating temperature sensors and the wires to these sensors.
  • [0115]
    Power Feed to the Blower, TED/PTC Assembly
  • [0116]
    TED 300 and air-moving device 150 can be configured to share the same power leads 372, thereby simplifying production and reducing costs, particularly since TED 300 and air-moving device 150 are usually located in a single housing 376 (FIG. 23C). One problem to overcome in such a configuration, however, is that the polarity of the voltage sent to TED 300 may be reversed in order to switch between heating and cooling, while air-moving device 150 requires a uniform polarity voltage. In one embodiment a bridge rectifier or other similar circuit 374 known to those skilled in the art can be used to provide a uniform polarity voltage to power air-moving device 150 regardless of the polarity of the incoming DC current (FIG. 23C). In another embodiment a control signal from control module 330 is used to control the direction of the DC current through TEM 302 (FIG. 23C). On the other hand, if TEM 302 is only used for cooling while heating is provided by separate heater, then no polarity switching is needed and the blower and the TED can be put in parallel to share the same power feeds.
  • [0117]
    In yet another embodiment a control signal from control module 330 can change the speed of air-moving device 150 (FIGS. 23C, 23D).
  • [0118]
    The advantage of having air-moving device 150 and TED 300 using the same power leads is that TED 300 will always be cooled by air-moving device 150 whenever TED 300 is working, and TED 300 will shut down if air-moving device 150 shuts down in case of failure of control module 330.
  • [0119]
    Enhanced Heating Performance
  • [0120]
    PTC heaters 320 can be put on one side of TED 300 where the air is blown to the seat surface to supplement the heat generated by TED 300 (FIG. 23B). Alternatively, PTC-based heater(s) 320 can be put in air duct 370, either downstream (FIG. 23C) or upstream (FIG. 23D) of TED 300. In heating mode, PTC heater(s) 320 will be powered up first. TED 300 will be powered up gradually with the decrease of the current draw from PTC heater(s) 320, maintaining an overall current draw within the limit. The advantage is to achieve a faster heat up time and power efficiency. The switchover from heating with PTC heater 320 to TED 300 can be determined either as a function of time (which in one embodiment is fifteen seconds after startup) or in another embodiment as a function of current draw. A PTC heater typically draws more current at initial startup. As it is reaching the stabilized state, it draws a smaller current. The current is monitored so that TED 300 can be switched over so that the total current draw is within a certain predetermined limit. This option can also be used for moisture removal for the TED: 1. switch TED 300 on cooling mode and blow air; 2. turn off TED 300 and turn on PTC 320 to blow warm air across heat sink 304 (FIG. 23B); 3. shut off system.
  • [0121]
    In heating mode, PTC heater 320 on the ‘hot’ side of TED 300 will generate heat to be transferred to the occupant via forced air, either working with or without TEM 302. If TEM 302 is also powered to provide the heat, it can be controlled to work at a lower capacity to guarantee it will not overheat. By using two heat sources, heat-up time will be shortened.
  • [0122]
    Optional temperature sensors or the methods described above will be used by control module 330 to provide overheat protection. If overheating is detected, power to TEM 302 will be shut off.
  • [0123]
    As various modifications could be made to the exemplary embodiments, as described above with reference to the corresponding illustrations, without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the foregoing description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative rather than limiting. Thus, the breadth and scope of the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims appended hereto and their equivalents.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification297/180.14
International ClassificationB60N2/90, A47C7/74
Cooperative ClassificationB60N2/66, B60N2/5685, B60N2/5692, B60N2/5621, B60N2/4492, B60N2/5657, B60N2/5635, A47C7/74
European ClassificationB60N2/56E2, B60N2/56E4, B60N2/56C4, B60N2/66, B60N2/56C4T, B60N2/56C4F, A47C7/74, B60N2/44S
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
7 Apr 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: SCHUKRA OF NORTH AMERICA, CANADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ALIONTE, CORINA;MCMILLEN, ROBERT J.;LIU, JINTAO;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017437/0961
Effective date: 20060407