WO2017123747A1 - Vehicle trim component with concealable indicia defined by micro-holes - Google Patents

Vehicle trim component with concealable indicia defined by micro-holes

Info

Publication number
WO2017123747A1
WO2017123747A1 PCT/US2017/013176 US2017013176W WO2017123747A1 WO 2017123747 A1 WO2017123747 A1 WO 2017123747A1 US 2017013176 W US2017013176 W US 2017013176W WO 2017123747 A1 WO2017123747 A1 WO 2017123747A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
layer
trim
component
vehicle
holes
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2017/013176
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Robert Bingle
Original Assignee
Adac Plastics, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R13/00Elements for body-finishing, identifying, or decorating; Arrangements or adaptations for advertising purposes
    • B60R13/02Internal Trim mouldings ; Internal Ledges; Wall liners for passenger compartments; Roof liners
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B23MACHINE TOOLS; METAL-WORKING NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B23KSOLDERING OR UNSOLDERING; WELDING; CLADDING OR PLATING BY SOLDERING OR WELDING; CUTTING BY APPLYING HEAT LOCALLY, e.g. FLAME CUTTING; WORKING BY LASER BEAM
    • B23K26/00Working by laser beam, e.g. welding, cutting or boring
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60QARRANGEMENT OF SIGNALLING OR LIGHTING DEVICES, THE MOUNTING OR SUPPORTING THEREOF OR CIRCUITS THEREFOR, FOR VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60Q1/00Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices
    • B60Q1/26Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices the devices being primarily intended to indicate the vehicle, or parts thereof, or to give signals, to other traffic
    • B60Q1/2661Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices the devices being primarily intended to indicate the vehicle, or parts thereof, or to give signals, to other traffic mounted on parts having other functions
    • B60Q1/2669Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices the devices being primarily intended to indicate the vehicle, or parts thereof, or to give signals, to other traffic mounted on parts having other functions on door or boot handles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60QARRANGEMENT OF SIGNALLING OR LIGHTING DEVICES, THE MOUNTING OR SUPPORTING THEREOF OR CIRCUITS THEREFOR, FOR VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60Q1/00Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices
    • B60Q1/26Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices the devices being primarily intended to indicate the vehicle, or parts thereof, or to give signals, to other traffic
    • B60Q1/50Arrangements or adaptations of optical signalling or lighting devices the devices being primarily intended to indicate the vehicle, or parts thereof, or to give signals, to other traffic for indicating other intentions or conditions, e.g. request for waiting or overtaking
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60QARRANGEMENT OF SIGNALLING OR LIGHTING DEVICES, THE MOUNTING OR SUPPORTING THEREOF OR CIRCUITS THEREFOR, FOR VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60Q3/00Arrangement of lighting devices for vehicle interiors; Lighting devices specially adapted for vehicle interiors
    • B60Q3/10Arrangement of lighting devices for vehicle interiors; Lighting devices specially adapted for vehicle interiors for dashboards
    • B60Q3/14Arrangement of lighting devices for vehicle interiors; Lighting devices specially adapted for vehicle interiors for dashboards lighting through the surface to be illuminated
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R13/00Elements for body-finishing, identifying, or decorating; Arrangements or adaptations for advertising purposes
    • B60R13/005Manufacturers' emblems, name plates, bonnet ornaments, mascots or the like; Mounting means therefor
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B26HAND CUTTING TOOLS; CUTTING; SEVERING
    • B26FPERFORATING; PUNCHING; CUTTING-OUT; STAMPING-OUT; SEVERING BY MEANS OTHER THAN CUTTING
    • B26F1/00Perforating; Punching; Cutting-out; Stamping-out; Apparatus therefor
    • B26F1/16Perforating by tool or tools of the drill type
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B32LAYERED PRODUCTS
    • B32BLAYERED PRODUCTS, i.e. PRODUCTS BUILT-UP OF STRATA OF FLAT OR NON-FLAT, e.g. CELLULAR OR HONEYCOMB, FORM
    • B32B2605/00Vehicles
    • B32B2605/003Interior finishings
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60QARRANGEMENT OF SIGNALLING OR LIGHTING DEVICES, THE MOUNTING OR SUPPORTING THEREOF OR CIRCUITS THEREFOR, FOR VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60Q2500/00Special features or arrangements of vehicle interior lamps
    • B60Q2500/10Special features or arrangements of vehicle interior lamps embedded in interior trim, e.g. integrated in headliner layers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R13/00Elements for body-finishing, identifying, or decorating; Arrangements or adaptations for advertising purposes
    • B60R13/02Internal Trim mouldings ; Internal Ledges; Wall liners for passenger compartments; Roof liners
    • B60R2013/0287Internal Trim mouldings ; Internal Ledges; Wall liners for passenger compartments; Roof liners integrating other functions or accessories

Abstract

A vehicle trim component with interior and exterior surfaces, the vehicular trim component includes a light-transmissive substrate having opposite front and rear surfaces; an illumination source disposed adjacent to the rear surface of the substrate, the illumination source actuatable between a non-illuminated state and an illuminated state for transmitting light through the substrate; and an outer layer disposed over the front surface of the substrate, the outer layer having at least partially defined therethrough a plurality of micro-holes which transmit light from the illumination source through the micro-holes. The plurality of micro-holes are arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source in its illuminated state.

Description

VEHICLE TRIM COMPONENT

WITH CONCEALABLE INDICIA DEFINED BY MICRO-HOLES

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS The present application claims the benefit of priority to United States Provisional Application Serial No. 62/277,634, filed 12 January 2016, the disclosure of which application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to a trim component. More specifically, the invention relates to a vehicle trim component that includes a plurality of micro-holes arranged to define indicia which is illuminated upon the passage of light through the micro-holes. The invention also related to a method of manufacturing the trim component.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Trim components are utilized on various items in different industries. For example, automobiles typically include numerous types of opaque and functional vehicular trim components that are mounted to both exterior and interior surfaces of the automobile. Examples of external trim components include door handles and license plate frames. Some of these components include indicia or other visual markings for providing an aesthetically pleasing effect and / or to communicate information, such as the make or model of the vehicle to an observer. Additionally, such indicia may be configured to dynamically illuminate to communicate information to a driver or observers (e.g., turn signal indicators and brake lights).

Unfortunately, some of the visual markings, such as turn signal indicators and controls on the interior of the vehicle (e.g., cruise control and radio controls) may not contribute positively to the aesthetic appearance of the vehicle. In fact, some of these visual markings may be visible even while not illuminated / in use and thus may even present a safety risk because they can distract the driver. It therefore may be desirable for these visual markings to be viewable only when they are employed. Additionally, the appearance of static visual markings, such as vehicle make/model indicia, and displays on the interior of the vehicle (e.g., instrument panel displays), can negatively contribute to the aesthetic appearance of the vehicle, or fail to attract sufficient attention to the visual markings.

Additionally, numerous items other than vehicular trim components have unexciting displays and controls and, therefore, suffer from similar deficiencies. Examples of such objects include household appliances, and electronic devices. It can be desirable for such products to have a pleasing visual appearance to influence customers to purchase the components.

In view of the foregoing, there remains a need for improvements to trim components such that they contribute more positively to the overall aesthetic appearance of the object to which they are amounted and to provide enhanced functionality of the object. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Disclosed herein is a vehicle trim component with concealable indicia defined by micro-holes.

In one embodiment, the vehicle trim component has interior and exterior surfaces and comprises each of: a light-transmissive substrate having opposite front and rear surfaces; an illumination source disposed adjacent to said rear surface of said substrate, the illumination source actuatable between a non-illuminated state and an illuminated state for transmitting light through said substrate; and an outer layer disposed over said front surface of said substrate, said outer layer having defined therethrough a plurality of micro-holes which transmit therethrough light from the illumination source, the plurality of micro-holes arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source in its illuminated state.

In one form, the outer layer is comprised of a light-transmissible carrier layer disposed adjacent the front surface of said substrate, and an opaque layer disposed over said carrier layer. The opaque layer may be colored in one or more colors.

According to one aspect, the outer layer further comprises a clear coat layer disposed over the opaque layer such that the opaque layer is positioned between the clear coat layer and the carrier layer.

In another embodiment, the vehicular trim component comprises each of: an opaque substrate having opposite front and rear surfaces; an opaque outer layer disposed over said front surface of said substrate; an illumination source disposed adjacent to said rear surface of said substrate, the illumination source actuatable between a non-illuminated state and an illuminated state; and a plurality of micro-holes for transmitting therethrough light from the illumination source, the plurality of micro- holes defined through each of the opaque substrate and the opaque outer layer, and the plurality of micro-holes arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source in its illuminated state.

In one form, the outer layer is comprised of a carrier layer disposed adjacent the front surface of said substrate, and an opaque layer disposed over the carrier layer. The opaque layer may be colored in one or more colors.

Per one feature, the outer layer further comprises a clear coat layer disposed over the opaque layer such that the opaque layer is positioned between the clear coat layer and the carrier layer.

According to any of the foregoing embodiments, each of the plurality of micro- holes is in the shape of a circle having a diameter of from 0.002 inches to 0.125 inches, inclusive. In another form, the vehicle trim component further comprises a controller operative to selectively actuate the illumination source. According to another aspect, the indicia is at least one of a trademark, one or more alphanumeric characters, a logo, a design, a symbol, a picture, an image, an indicator, and a frit. The trim component may comprise, by way of non-limiting example, a keyless entry pad, a door handle, or a lift- handle for a rear lift gate. In one form, the micro-holes may be defined using a laser or drill.

The invention in its broadest aspect therefore provides for a trim component that has the visual appearance of a solid surface (or may only present other opaque features of the outer layer) until the illumination device is activated, causing light to pass through the micro-holes to present the pattern. More specifically, the small size of the micro- holes prevents the micro-holes (and the pattern which they are arranged in) to remain substantially invisible to the human eye until the illumination source is activated.

As such, the subject invention may provide an increased, overall aesthetically pleasing appearance for the object on which the trim component is mounted. For example, it may be aesthetically desirable for the pattern to remain substantially invisible to the human eye on until the pattern is required to be illuminated to communicate information.

Furthermore, the subject invention may provide increased safety in certain situations. More specifically, the pattern may be configured to be illuminated only when it will not be a distraction to one or more persons. For example, when the invention is utilized on a vehicle, the pattern may be configured to be illuminated only when the vehicle is in a parked position, thus reducing the number of unnecessary distractions for a driver while the vehicle is in motion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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

Figure 1 is a side cross-sectional view of a first example embodiment of a trim component having a first example embodiment of a substrate illustrating a plurality of micro-holes defined by an outer layer; Figure 2 is a side cross-sectional view of the first example embodiment of a trim component having a second example embodiment of a substrate illustrating a plurality of micro-holes defined by an outer layer and the substrate;

Figure 3 is a perspective view of a third example embodiment of a trim component;

Figure 4 is a perspective cutaway view of the third example embodiment of a trim component;

Figure 5 is a magnified perspective exploded view of the third example embodiment of the trim component illustrating the layers which make up the outer layer;

Figure 5A is a side cross-sectional view of the trim component of Figure 5;

Figure 6 is a magnified perspective view of the third example embodiment of a trim component further illustrating the layers which make up the outer layer;

Figure 7 is a perspective view of the outer layer of a trim component illustrating a plurality of micro-holes defined by the outer layer arrange in different patterns;

Figure 7 A is a magnified view of the plurality of the micro-holes of Figure 7;

Figure 8 is a perspective view of the outer layer of a trim component illustrating a plurality of micro-holes shaped like slots defined by the outer layer arranged in different patterns;

Figure 8A is a magnified view of the plurality of the micro-holes of Figure 8;

Figure 9 is a flow diagram of a first example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component;

Figure 10 includes diagrams illustrating steps of the first example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component; Figure 1 1 includes diagrams illustrating steps of a second example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component;

Figure 12 includes diagrams illustrating steps of a third example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component;

Figure 13 depicts in perspective a vehicle with various trim components which may be fashioned according to the present invention;

Figure 14 depicts a vehicle trim component in the form of an access handle for a rear lift-gate;

Figures 15A and 15B depict a vehicle trim component in the form of an access handle for a passenger door;

Figure 16 depicts a vehicle trim component in the form of an access handle for a passenger door; and

Figure 17 is an exploded perspective view of a vehicle trim component in the form of an access handle for a passenger door.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ENABLING EMBODIMENT

Referring to the Figures, a vehicle trim component 20 is generally shown. It should be appreciated that the term "trim component" as used herein may refer to various types of trim components 20 such as those used on an exterior or interior surface of a vehicle. The vehicle may be any time of vehicle including, but not limited to, automobiles, motorcycles, and all-terrain vehicles. The trim component 20 may also be used on non-vehicle items including, but not limited to, household appliances and electronic devices. As best presented in Figures 1 and 2, the trim component 20 generally includes a substrate 22, 122, an outer layer 24 disposed over the substrate 22, 122, and an illumination source 26 that is disposed behind the substrate 22. The outer layer 24 has defined therethrough a plurality of micro-holes 28 arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source 26 in its illuminated state.

The substrate 22, 122 provides a base for the trim component 20. As shown, the substrate 22, 122 extends between a front surface 30 and a rear surface 32. The substrate 22, 122 may be made out of various types of materials. Examples of suitable materials include, but are not limited to, resins (i.e., polymers), glasses and metals. As will be explained in greater detail below, the substrate 22, 122 may be partially or wholly light-transmissive (i.e. , partially or wholly transparent or translucent) or opaque.

The outer layer 24 is disposed over the front surface 30 of the substrate 22. As best illustrated in Figures 5 and 6, the outer layer 24 is, in the exemplary embodiment comprised of a light transmissive carrier 25 that may be a chemical match of the substrate 22. In the example embodiments, the carrier 25 is approximately 0.040 inches thick. However, it should be appreciated that other thicknesses could be utilized. The outer layer 24 further includes an opaque layer 27 that is colored in one or more colors. The opaque layer 27 may be a paint layer or a molded-in color layer, such as a molded- in-color film.

A clear coat layer 29 may also be disposed over the carrier layer 27. In the example embodiments, the opaque and clear coat layers 27, 29 are each approximately 0.0025 inches thick. However, it should be appreciated that other thicknesses could be utilized. Various patterns and shapes may be created with the opaque and clear coat layers 27, 29. Further opaque layer 27 may have various color combinations.

It should be appreciated that the outer layer 24 may have various shapes and sizes. Further, the outer layer 24 may cover all or only part of the front surface 30 (or other areas) of the substrate 22. Additionally, more than one outer layer 24 segment may be utilized at different locations of the substrate 22.

As best shown in Figures 7-8A, the opaque and clear coat layers 27, 29 of the outer layer 24 have defined therethrough the plurality of micro-holes 28 in one or more predetermined patterns. As best illustrated in Figure 7A, the term "micro-hole" as used herein may include holes that have a diameter that falls approximately within the range of 0.002 inches to 0.125 inches, inclusive. Alternatively, as best illustrated in Figure 8A, the term "micro-holes" may include holes that are shaped like slots with a width that falls approximately within the range of 0.002 inches and 0.125 inches. As illustrated, the indicia defined by the micro-holes 28 may define at least one of a trademark, one or more alphanumeric characters, a logo, a design, a symbol, a picture, an image, an indicator, and a frit.

With reference back to Figures 1 and 2, the illumination source 26 is disposed adjacent to the rear surface 32 of the substrate 22. In the example embodiments, the illumination source 26 is secured to a circuit board 34 along with a suitable backing 35 which may be attached to a vehicle or other object. In the example embodiment of the trim component 20 disclosed in Figures 3 and 4, a light projecting cone 37 is disposed between the illumination source 26 and the rear surface 32 of the substrate 22 to focus the light from the illumination source 26 toward a particular area of the outer layer 24. It should be appreciated that the light projecting cone 37 could focus the light on any part(s) of the outer layer 24 as desired. The illumination source 26 is actuatable between an illuminated state and a non-illuminated state for transmitting light through the micro-holes 28 to illuminate the pattern. The illumination source 26 is connected to a controller 36 (e.g., the body control module of a vehicle) for selectively controlling the illumination source 26. The illumination source 26 is also connected to as a power source 38 for proving power to the illumination source 26. The illumination source 26 may be any suitable light generating device including, but limited to, one or more light emitting diodes (LEDs) 29, incandescent bulbs and fluorescent light bulbs. In embodiments in which a plurality of illumination sources 26 are utilized, it should be appreciated that the illumination sources 26 may be selectively activated at different times and locations relative to one another to illuminate different micro-holes 28 at different times, to illuminate different patterns at different times.

In a first example embodiment of the substrate 22, best presented in Figures 1 , 3 and 4, the substrate 22 and carrier layer 25 of the outer layer 24 are at least partially transparent, therefore allowing light from the illumination source 26 to pass between the front and rear surfaces 30, 32 of the substrate 24 and through the micro-holes 28 of the layer. As such, in vehicle trim components with the first embodiment of the substrate 22, the micro-holes 28 are only defined through the opaque layer 27 and a clear coat layer 29 of the outer layer 24. It should be appreciated that a benefit of this embodiment is that moisture and other contaminates are unlikely to pass through or block the micro- holes 28 since the micro-holes 28 are blocked at one end by the substrate 22. In a second example embodiment of the substrate 122 best presented in Figure 2, the substrate 122 and carrier layer 25 are substantially opaque and a plurality of micro-holes 28 extend therethrough. In this embodiment, despite the substrate 122 being opaque, light is able to pass through the micro-holes 28 of the substrate 22 to the micro-holes 28 of the outer layer 24.

It should be appreciated that the small size of the micro-holes 28 permits the micro-holes 28 (and the indicia which they are arranged to present) to remain substantially invisible to the human eye until the illumination source 26 is activated. The outer layer 24 of the trim component 20 therefore may have the visual appearance of a solid surface (or may only present other decorative features of the outer layer 24) until the illumination source 26 is activated, causing light to pass through the micro-holes 28 to present the pattern defined by the micro-holes 28. In other words, the micro-holes 28 may create the illusion of a clean, uninterrupted surface until the micro-holes 28 are illuminated. As such, the subject invention trim component 20 may provide an increased overall aesthetically pleasing appearance for the object on which the trim component 20 is mounted. For example, it may be aesthetically desirable for the pattern to remain substantially invisible until the pattern is needed to communicate information. This may be accomplished with the subject trim component 20 because the illumination source 20 may be employed only when desired.

Furthermore, the subject trim component 20 may provide increased safety in certain situations. For example, when the trim component 20 is utilized on a vehicle, the pattern may be configured to be illuminated only when the vehicle is in a parked position, thus reducing the number of unnecessary distractions for a driver while the vehicle is in motion.

As best presented in Figures 9 and 10, a first method of manufacturing a trim component 20 in accordance with the foregoing is also provided. The method utilizes an Insert-Molded-Decorating (IMD) process that starts with the step of 100 creating the outer layer 24. The outer layer 24 may be created using various processes including, but not limited to, thermoforming and cold forming processes. The method continues by 102 forming a plurality of micro-holes 28 in the outer layer 24. The micro-holes 28 may be formed using various processes including, but not limited to, a laser cutting/drilling process and a micro-drilling process. As discussed in the above, the micro-holes 28 may be formed in only the opaque and clear coat layers 27, 29 of the outer layer 24.

The method proceeds by 104 trimming the outer layer 24 to a predetermined pattern and size that corresponds with a mold tool. After the outer layer 24 has been trimmed to a suitable pattern and size, the method then includes 106 positioning the outer layer 24 into the cavity of the mold tool against a wall of the mold tool. This step 106 preferably includes a vacuum forming process wherein air is extracted between the outer layer 24 and the wall of the mold tool to provide a tight fit between the outer layer 24 and the wall of the mold tool. After the outer layer 24 is disposed against the wall of the mold tool, the method includes 108 injecting a resin into the cavity of the mold tool to allow the resin to harden in engagement with the outer layer 24. After the resin has hardened, the method includes 110 removing the hardened resin from the cavity of the mold tool with the outer layer 24 disposed therein. Finally, the method includes 112 disposing an illumination source 26 adjacent to the rear surface 32 of the substrate 22. A second example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component 20 in accordance with the foregoing is provided in Figure 1 1 . The second example method is substantially the same as the first example embodiment described above except the step of 106 positioning the outer layer 24 into the cavity of the mold tool against a wall of the mold tool takes place prior to the step of 102 forming a plurality of micro-holes 28 in the outer layer 24. Said another way, in the second enabling embodiment, the plurality of micro-holes 28 are formed after the outer layer 24 is positioned into the cavity of the mold tool and before the resin is injected into the cavity of the mold tool and hardened.

A third example embodiment of a method of manufacturing a trim component 20 in accordance with the foregoing is provided in Figure 12. The third example method is substantially the same as the first example embodiment described above except the steps of 106 positioning the outer layer 24 into the cavity of the mold tool against a wall of the mold tool and 108 injecting a resin into the cavity of the mold tool take place prior to the step of 102 forming a plurality of micro-holes 28 in the outer layer 24. In other words, in the third enabling embodiment, the plurality of micro-holes 28 are formed after the outer layer 24 is positioned into the cavity of the mold tool and after the resin is injected into the cavity of the mold tool and hardened. It should be appreciated that in this embodiment of a method, despite forming the micro-holes 28 after the outer layer 24 is connected to the substrate, 22, the micro-holes 28 do not have to extend through the substrate - they may be formed in only the opaque layer 27 and a clear coat layer 29 of the outer layer 24. Turning now to Figure 13, there is shown an exemplary vehicle 200 as a means of illustrating, without limitation, some of the vehicle trim components which may incorporate the concealable indicia of the present invention. Vehicle 200 includes a rear lift gate 201 with a trim component 205 illustrated as a lift handle with concealable indicia 206. The indicia 206 can be displayed when backlit, as described herein. When the indicia 206 are not backlit, they can be indiscernible, and the trim component 205 can have the appearance of a trim component without indicia. Similarly, indicia can be provided in such other exemplary trim components as, by way of non-limiting example, door handles 210, external mirrors 220, emblems 230, and door trim 240. In these embodiments, the indicia may take any desired form, including one or more of a trademark, one or more alphanumeric characters, a logo, a design, a symbol, a picture, an image, an indicator, etc. Exemplary forms are described further below.

In Figure 14, for instance, there is a shown a vehicle trim component in the form of a rear lift-gate handle 205' having a surface 207' (constituted according to any of the embodiments as described heretofore) in which is defined indicia 206'. In a non-backlit state - when the illumination source (not shown) is not on - the trim component 205' appears not to include any indicia thereon. However, when the trim component 205' is backlit, the indicia 206' can be revealed, as illustrated in Figure 14. In the embodiment of Figure 14, indicia 206' are shown to comprise textual characters and a symbol. Of course, it will be appreciated that the indicia can take any desired form. Further, it will be appreciated that the indicia 206' can be selectively sized and positioned for viewing from a selected distance and orientation relative to the trim component 205'. Turning next to Figures 15A and 15B, a further exemplary embodiment of the invention is illustrated wherein the vehicle trim component is a door handle 210' mounted to an exterior surface of a door 202' of the vehicle. More particularly, the door handle 210' is of the type comprising a movable handle 211' which is manually operable to actuate a door latch for unlatching and opening the vehicle door, as well as a stationary handle cap 212'. Figure 15A illustrates the trim component 210' when the illumination source (not shown) is in a non-illuminated state, such that the trim component 210' appears as if it does not have indicia thereon. However, when the trim component 210' is illuminated, indicia 213' in an illuminated state can be viewed by an observer, as illustrated in Figure 15B.

With reference next to Figure 16, there is shown another exemplary embodiment of the invention in the form of a vehicle door handle 210" having a keyless entry system 214". The indicia 213" can comprise the keypad of the entry system, which can have individual keys 214" that can be touched by a user in a predetermined sequence to unlock a lock mechanism (not shown) of the keyless entry system so that the user can grasp and pull the movable handle 211" to release the door latch. The keys 214" defined by the indicia 213" can provide a visual indicator that identifies location(s) on the handle 210" that the user must touch to operate the keyless entry system. The keys 214" can be associated with electronics in the form of a switch or sensor, such as a membrane switch, a capacitance sensor, or a field effect sensor, positioned behind the indicia 213" and capable of sensing the presence of a user's finger when the user touches the keys 214" as defined by the indicia 213". Thus, when the user touches the key in a predetermined sequence, the electronics can operably communicate with the lock mechanism to unlock the door. As also shown in the embodiment of Figure 16, indicia 213a" may, as desired, also be provided in the form of decorative words and designs.

A further exemplar of the invention, in the form of a vehicle trim component as a handle 310 is illustrated in Figure 17. The embodiment of this figure shares many of the features of the previously described embodiments, which will not be described in detail herein unless necessary for a complete understanding of the invention. The door handle 310 has an outer layer 311 in which is defined by micro-holes indicia 312 in the manner heretofore described, which indicia can be invisible when an illumination source 320 is not illuminated, but rendered visible when the illumination source 320 is illuminated.

The door handle 310 further comprises a substrate in the form of a grip cover 315 that mates with a handle housing 325 pivotally mounted to a vehicle door (not shown) and operatively coupled with a door latch (not shown) located inside the door. Together, the grip cover 315 and the handle housing 325 can form a grip that can be grasped by a user, per convention. The door handle 310 can also comprise a cap 330 mounted to the vehicle door adjacent to the movable portion defined by the grip cover 315 and the handle housing 325.

The door handle assembly 310 further includes an illumination source holder 321 mounted to the handle housing 325 and sandwiched between the housing 325 and the grip cover 315. The illumination source holder 321 can support an illumination source 320, which comprises a plurality of illumination elements 322 to provide backlighting to the indicia 312. The illumination elements 322 can be any suitable source of light such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) that can be illuminated individually, in selected groups, or concurrently. An illumination source assembly wire harness 323 can extend through the illumination source holder 321 and the handle housing 325 to be coupled with the vehicle power and control systems (not shown), for controlling the operation of one or more of the illumination elements 322. It is also contemplated that, in the alternative, illumination of the illumination elements may be effected by local control, such as in the form of a controller comprising part of a printed circuit board (PCB) of which the illumination elements are a part.

Of course, many modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings and may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described while within the scope of the appended claims. These antecedent recitations should be interpreted to cover any combination in which the inventive novelty exercises its utility. The use of the word "said" in the apparatus claims refers to an antecedent that is a positive recitation meant to be included in the coverage of the claims whereas the word "the" precedes a word not meant to be included in the coverage of the claims.

Claims

CLAIMS What is claimed is:
1 . A vehicle trim component with interior and exterior surfaces, the vehicular trim component comprising:
a light-transmissive substrate having opposite front and rear surfaces;
an illumination source disposed adjacent to said rear surface of said substrate, the illumination source actuatable between a non-illuminated state and an illuminated state for transmitting light through said substrate; and
an outer layer disposed over said front surface of said substrate, said outer layer having defined at least partially therethrough a plurality of micro-holes which transmit light from the illumination source through the micro-holes, the plurality of micro-holes arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source in its illuminated state.
2. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the outer layer is comprised of a light-transmissible carrier layer disposed adjacent the front surface of said substrate, and an opaque layer disposed over said carrier layer, and wherein the plurality of micro- holes are defined through the opaque layer.
3. The vehicle trim component of claim 2, wherein the opaque layer is colored in one or more colors.
4. The vehicle trim component of claim 2, wherein the outer layer further comprises a clear coat layer disposed over the opaque layer such that the opaque layer is positioned between the clear coat layer and the carrier layer, and wherein the plurality of micro-holes are defined through the clear coat layer and the opaque layer.
5. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein each of the plurality of micro- holes is in the shape of a circle having a diameter of from 0.002 inches to 0.125 inches, inclusive.
6. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , further comprising a controller operative to selectively actuate the illumination source.
7. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the indicia is at least one of a trademark, one or more alphanumeric characters, a logo, a design, a symbol, a picture, an image, an indicator, and a frit.
8. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the trim component comprises a keyless entry pad.
9. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the trim component comprises a door handle.
10. The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the trim component comprises a lift handle for a rear lift gate.
1 1 . The vehicle trim component of claim 1 , wherein the micro-holes are defined using a laser or drill.
12. A vehicle trim component with interior and exterior surfaces, the vehicular trim component comprising:
an opaque substrate having opposite front and rear surfaces;
an opaque outer layer disposed over said front surface of said substrate;
an illumination source disposed adjacent to said rear surface of said substrate, the illumination source actuatable between a non-illuminated state and an illuminated state;
a plurality of micro-holes for transmitting therethrough light from the illumination source, the plurality of micro-holes defined through each of the opaque substrate and the opaque outer layer, and the plurality of micro-holes arranged so as to define indicia which are visually perceptible from the exterior of the vehicle trim component when the illumination source in its illuminated state.
13. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the outer layer is comprised of a carrier layer disposed adjacent the front surface of said substrate, and an opaque layer disposed over the carrier layer.
14. The vehicle trim component of claim 13, wherein the opaque layer is colored in one or more colors.
15. The vehicle trim component of claim 13, wherein the outer layer further comprises a clear coat layer disposed over the opaque layer such that the opaque layer is positioned between the clear coat layer and the carrier layer.
16. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein each of the plurality of micro- holes is in the shape of a circle having a diameter of from 0.002 inches to 0.125 inches, inclusive.
17. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, further comprising a controller operative to selectively actuate the illumination source.
18. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the indicia is at least one of a trademark, one or more alphanumeric characters, a logo, a design, a symbol, a picture, an image, an indicator, and a frit.
19. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the trim component comprises a keyless entry pad.
20. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the trim component comprises a door handle.
21 . The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the trim component comprises a lift handle for a rear lift gate.
22. The vehicle trim component of claim 12, wherein the micro-holes are defined using a laser or drill.
PCT/US2017/013176 2016-01-12 2017-01-12 Vehicle trim component with concealable indicia defined by micro-holes WO2017123747A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

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US62/277,634 2016-01-12

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Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20040000062A1 (en) * 2002-06-28 2004-01-01 Johnson Controls Technology Company Compass display for a vehicle
US20060066579A1 (en) * 2003-02-27 2006-03-30 Bang & Olufsen A/S Magic panel
US20090257241A1 (en) * 2005-02-04 2009-10-15 Adac Plastics, Inc. Trim component with concealed indicium
KR20140044838A (en) * 2011-08-08 2014-04-15 후세진공가부시키가이샤 Vehicle functional component
US20150210226A1 (en) * 2014-01-27 2015-07-30 Faurecia Interieur Industrie Vehicle trim element

Patent Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20040000062A1 (en) * 2002-06-28 2004-01-01 Johnson Controls Technology Company Compass display for a vehicle
US20060066579A1 (en) * 2003-02-27 2006-03-30 Bang & Olufsen A/S Magic panel
US20090257241A1 (en) * 2005-02-04 2009-10-15 Adac Plastics, Inc. Trim component with concealed indicium
KR20140044838A (en) * 2011-08-08 2014-04-15 후세진공가부시키가이샤 Vehicle functional component
US20150210226A1 (en) * 2014-01-27 2015-07-30 Faurecia Interieur Industrie Vehicle trim element

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