US 3608961 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Robert Von Heck 3205 Udall St., San Diego, Calif. 92106 855,144
Sept. 4, 1969 Sept. 28, i971 Inventor Appl. No. Filed Patented VARIABLE CONTOUR CUSHION 12 Claims, 8 Drawing Figs.
US. Cl 297/284,
297/DlG. 3, 5/36l R Int. Cl A47c 3/00 Field of Search 297/458-460,
284,DIG.1, DIG. 3; 5/361 R  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,192,54l 7/l965 Moore 297/284 X 3,459,l79 8/l969 Oleson 5/36l X Primary Examiner-James C. Mitchell ABSTRACT: A cushion comprising a plurality of plastic beadlike material sealed within a pliant covering and including means whereby a user may selectively alter ambient air pressure differential and cushion contour and neutralize body pressure fatigue points for maximum comfort.
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VARIABLE CONTOUR CUSHION This invention relates to cushions for chairs and the like, and particularly to cushions for conforming to the contour of a torso.
A need exists for cushions for chairs, sofas, and the like which provide maximum comfort for maximum number of people. Although individualized custom cushions are most comfortable, they are not always practical. For example, cushions for automobiles, airplanes, and the like are ordinarily standardized for appearance purposes as well as to minimize manufacturing and installation costs. Heretofore, most contour seats provide comfort for only about one-third of the people, the standardization of contour seats having been accomplished at the expense of comfort to the other two-thirds of the people having larger or smaller torsos.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a contour seat capable of conforming to an occupants torso.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a cushion which is sufficiently deformable so as to conform to the occupants torso and yet is capable of being transformed into a nonpliant stuffing so as to retain the contour of the tor- Another object of the present invention is to provide an inexpensive contour seating device capable of conforming to a wide variety of torso sizes and shapes.
In accordance with the present invention, a cushion is provided with a resilient cover forming a cavity containing a plurality of deformable beads. Means is provided for selectively connecting the cavity into communication with the source of reduced pressure.
In operation, the occupant of the seat initially connects the cavity in fluid communication with atmospheric pressure. In this condition, the beads are in their relaxed condition and assume a generally spherical shape. The force of the body of the occupant upon the individual beads causes reaction forces against each of the beads so that the beads roll against each other to assume positions compatible with the torso of the occupant. When the desired shape is achieved, the occupant connects the cavity to a source of vacuum, thereby creating a differential pressure on the cover which in turn causes a compressive force on the beads. This compressive force presses the beads together. The compression force on the beads is caused by the atmospheric pressure reacting against the resilient cover and causes mutual deformation of the beads into a multifacet structure so that the beads can no longer roll against each other. The occupant may thereafter leave the seat and the contour corresponding to his torso will remain. To alter the contour of the seat, the occupant may connect the cavity back into fluid communication with atmospheric pressure. When in this condition, there is differential pressure on the resilient cover and the individual beads relax and do not press strongly against each other. Hence, the individual beads again assume their substantially spherical shape. Hence, the operation may be repeated.
In accordance with an optional and desirable feature of the present invention, the beads comprise expandable polystyrene beads.
In accordance with another optional and desirable feature, the beads are coated with a suitable lubricant, such as Teflon or silicone.
The above and other features of this invention will be more fully understood from the following detailed description, and the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a side view elevation, partly in cutaway cross section, of a seat having cushions in accordance with the presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a front view of the seat illustrated in FIG. 1 taken at line 2-2 in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged section view taken at line 3-3 in FIG.
FIG. 4 is a side view elevation as in FIG. 1 illustrating a typical contour of the cushions when occupied by an occupant;
FIG. 5 is a front view of the seat taken at line 5-5 in FIG. 4;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged section view as in FIG. 3 taken at line 66 in FIG. 4;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a seat having cushions in accordance with a modification of the present invention; and
FIG. 8 is a section view taken at line 88 in FIG. 7.
Referring to the drawings there is illustrated a chair l0 having a bottom cushion II and a back cushion l2. Cushions 11 and 12 are mounted to frame 13 by any suitable means, such as by an adhesive or any suitable fastener (not shown). Cushions 11 and 12 each comprise a pliable or resilient sheet 14 and 15, constructed of suitable material such as polyvinyl chloride or the like. It is to be understood, however, that sheets 14 and 15 may be a suitable leather or other natural animal hide or other suitable fabric capable of being used for upholstery. Sheets I4 and 15 each define an enclosed cavity which contains cushion material 16. Material 16 preferably comprises a plurality of plastic beads of relatively low density which is capable of being deformed into a peculiar multifacet shape when subjected to substantial compression forces. By way of example, material 16 may comprise expandable polystyrene plastic beads, such as that ordinarily used in inexpensive steam-molded products such as toys.
Conduit 17 provides fluid communication between the interior of bottom cushion II and fluid conduit 18, and fluid conduit 19 provides fluid communication between the interior of back cushion l2 and fluid conduit 18. Fluid conduit 18 is connected to the inlet of fluid switch 20.
Fluid switch 20 comprises a housing 21 having its inlet connected in fluid communication with fluid conduit 18 and having a first outlet connected through fluid conduit 22 to vacuum pump 23. A second outlet 29 is in fluid communication with the atmosphere. Slide 24, having fluid passage 25, is slidably mounted in slot 26 in housing 21. Pushbutton 27 is attached to slide 24 to facilitate movement of slide 24 between a first position wherein passage 25 provides fluid communication between conduit 18 and conduit 22 and a second position wherein passage 25 provides fluid communication between inlet 18 and outlet conduit 29. Preferably, spring 28 nonnally biases slide 24 to its first position as illustrated in FIG. 4. Also, screen 30 is preferably located at the entrance to conduit 17 and 19 to prevent beads 16 from flowing through the respective conduit.
FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate a modification of a seat in accordance with the presently preferred invention. In FIGS. 7 and 8 the seat comprises a substantially tubular frame 40 which supports a draped fabric 41. Fabric 41 is supported in a well-known manner to form a type of hammock. A plurality of cushions 42, of a variety similar to that illustrated in FIGS. 1-6 are arranged in the hammock portion formed by fabric 41. Each cushion 42 defines a cavity which is in fluid communication to a source of reduced pressure (not shown) through the tubular frame 40 in the manner heretofore described in connection with FIGS. 1-6. One feature of the seat illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8 resides in the fact that the cushions are arranged so that their lower surfaces 43 are disposed in a plain oblique to the pull of gravity. Hence, the beads 16 within each cushion 41 will not bunch up near the bottom of each cushion and the entire seat maintains its contour and the cushions will not sag.
In operation, assuming that the cushions are in the position illustrated in FIG. I, the occupant initially sits in the seat and depresses button 27 to move slide 24 to its second position wherein inlet conduit 18 is in fluid communication to the atmosphere through conduit 29 as illustrated in FIG. 1. In this position, the cavity defined by the cushions is at atmospheric pressure and the polystyrene beads I6 assume a substantially spherical shape because there is substantially no compression force on sheets 14 and 15 by virtue of a differential pressure on the covers. The force on the beads imposed by the occupant equalizes because the beads roll against each other to a position to equalize all bodily contact against the posterior region of the occupant. Preferably, beads 16 are coated or impregnated with a suitable lubricant, such as Teflon or silicone, so that the coefficient of friction is minimized between contiguous beads.
When the spherical beads are in a position corresponding to the contour of the occupant, the occupant may release button 27 thereby returning slide 24 to the position illustrated in FIG. 4 wherein inlet conduit 18 is in fluid communication with vacuum pump 23 through conduit 22. In this condition, a compressive force is imposed upon sheets 14 and 15 by virtue of the pressure difference between the atmosphere and the reduced pressure within the cavity, and the individual beads thereby deform into peculiar multifacet-shaped beads as illustrated in FIG. 6. This effect, which is sometimes referred to as cubiformingreportedly produces up to l4-sided beads by virtue of the compressive force of the beads against each other and substantially prevents movement between contiguous beads. Hence, should the occupant leave the seat, the seat contour remains until button 27 is depressed and the cavity is again brought into fluid communication with the atmosphere through conduit 29. Ordinarily a pressure of about three fourths to one-half of atmospheric pressure is adequate for deforming polystyrene beads. Hence, if the atmospheric pressure is 14 lb./sq. in., a reduced pressure of 3 lb./sq. in. produces a pressure of l l lb./sq. in. on the beads to thereby compress them.
Preferably, the plastic beads are closed-cell plastic beads so that the cushion is buoyant. Hence, the seats may be used as life preservers should the need arise. This feature is particularly useful in the case of airline and boat seats wherein the seats may be disconnected from the craft and used as life preservers in the event of danger.
The present invention thus provides a cushion for conforming to any torso for maximum comfort. The cushion has a relatively long life and is capable of assuming new shapes many times without fault. Although the present invention is described in connection with seats and back cushions for seats, it is to be understood that the present invention is suitable for armrests, head cushions and other types of contour fitting as well.
This invention is not to be limited by the embodiment shown in the drawings or described in the description, which is given by way of example and not of limitation.
What I claim is:
l. A cushion comprising: a resilient cover forming a cavity; a plurality of deformable beads in said cavity, each of said beads being characterized as having a substantially spherical shape in its relaxed condition and capable of assuming a multifacet shape when subjected to a compressive force; and
means for selectively applying a compressive force to said beads.
2. Cushion according to claim 1 wherein said last named means comprises a switch having an inlet in fluid communication with said cavity, a first outlet in fluid communication with the atmosphere, and a second outlet in fluid communication with a source of reduced pressure, and selection means having a first position providing fluid communication between said inlet and said first outlet and having a second position providing fluid communication between said inlet and said second outlet.
3. Cushion according to claim 2 wherein said switch further includes bias means for biasing said selection means into its second position.
4. Cushion according to claim 2 wherein said beads are closed-cell polystyrene beads.
5. Cushion according to claim 1 wherein said beads are closed-cell polystyrene beads.
6. Cushion according to claim 1 wherein said beads are coated with a lubricant.
7. A seat comprising: a plurality of cushions, each cushion having a cover forming a cavity, a plurality of foam plastic beads in said cavity, each of said beads being characterized as having a substantially spherical shape in its relaxed condition and capable of assuming a multifacet shape when subjected to a compressive force; and means for selectively applying a compressive force to said beads.
8. Seat according to claim 7 wherein said last named means comprises a switch havin an inlet in fluid communication with said cavity, a first out et in fluid communication with the atmosphere, and a second outlet in fluid communication with a source of reduced pressure, and selection means having a first position providing fluid communication between said inlet and said first outlet and having a second position providing fluid communication between said inlet and said second outlet.
9. Seat according to claim 8 wherein said switch further includes a bias means for biasing said selection means into its second position.
10. Seat according to claim 8 wherein said beads are closedcell polystyrene beads.
11. Seat according to claim 7 wherein said beads are closedcell polystyrene beads.
12. Seat according to claim 7 wherein said beads are coated with a lubricant.