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Title:
FLUID VALVE MODULE, FLUID VALVE SYSTEM AND METHODS OF PRODUCING THE SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/169282
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A fluid valve module (10), a fluid valve system (20) and methods (30A, 30B) of producing the same are provided. The fluid valve module (10) comprises a housing and a plurality of valve members (103). The housing comprises a housing body (101) and a housing cover(108). The housing body (101) comprises a fluid feed partition (104), a plurality of valve body partitions (105), and a plurality of valve ports (106). The housing body (101) further comprises wall openings (107) between an interior of the fluid feed partition (104) and an exterior of the housing body (101). The valve body partitions (105) are each shaped for mating with the housing cover(108) in a fluid-tight manner, and are each in fluid communication with the fluid feed partition (104) and at least one of the valve ports (106). The valve members (103) are each arranged in a respective valve body partition (105) for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition (104) via the respective valve body partition (105) to the at least one of the valve ports (106).

Inventors:
KALMUTZKI MARTIN (DE)
BERKOVYCH IGOR (DE)
STURM SIGURD (DE)
SCHMITZ DANIEL (DE)
VOELK DOMINIK (DE)
HOERBER GERHARD (DE)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2020/051138
Publication Date:
August 27, 2020
Filing Date:
January 17, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SCHUKRA GERÄTEBAU GMBH (AT)
International Classes:
F16K11/24; A61H9/00; B60N2/66; B60N2/90; F16K27/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2018005528A12018-01-04
Foreign References:
US20180038514A12018-02-08
DE202014006875U12014-12-02
US20110095216A12011-04-28
EP1988440A12008-11-05
US20120143108A12012-06-07
US20070023089A12007-02-01
DE102005060217A12006-07-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BANZER, Hans-Jörg (DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
C LA I M S

1 . A fluid valve module (10), comprising

a housing and a plurality of valve members (103);

the housing comprising a housing body (101 ) and a housing cover (108);

the housing body (101 ) comprising a fluid feed partition (104), a plurality of valve body partitions (105), and a plurality of valve ports (106);

the housing body (101 ) further comprising wall openings (107) between an in terior of the fluid feed partition (104) and an exterior of the housing body (101 );

the valve body partitions (105) each being shaped for mating with the housing cover (108) in a fluid-tight manner, and each being in fluid communication with the fluid feed partition (104) and at least one of the valve ports (106); and

the valve members (103) each being arranged in a respective one of the valve body partitions (105) for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition (104) via the respective valve body partition (105) to the at least one of the valve ports (106).

2. The fluid valve module (10) of claim 1 ,

the valve members (103) each comprising a respective valve actuator.

3. The fluid valve module (10) of claim 2,

the valve actuator comprising a solenoid.

4. The fluid valve module (10) of any one of claims 1 - 3, further comprising

a module PCB (202A) being shaped for mating with the housing body (101 ) and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve members (103).

5. A fluid valve system (20), comprising

a plurality of fluid valve modules (10) of any one of claims 1 - 4, and at least one connecting means (201 );

the housings (101 , 108) of the fluid valve modules (10) each being shaped for mating with one another;

the wall openings (107) being arranged for alignment with one another upon mating of the housings (101 , 108) of the fluid valve modules (10); and the connecting means (201 ) being arranged for concatenating respective fluid feed partitions (104) of mated fluid valve modules (10) in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings (107).

6. The fluid valve system (20) of claim 5,

the housings (101 , 108) of the fluid valve modules (10) each being shaped for mating with one another in an abutting engagement of those walls of the housing bod ies comprising the wall openings (107).

7. The fluid valve system (20) of claim 5 or claim 6,

the connecting means (201 ) being sleeve-shaped for fitting into the aligned wall openings (107).

8. The fluid valve system (20) of any one of claims 5 - 7 when not depending from claim 4, further comprising

a system PCB (202B) being shaped for mating with the housing bodies (101 ) of mated fluid valve modules (10), and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve members (103) of mated fluid valve modules (10).

9. The fluid valve system (20) of any one of claims 5 - 7 when depending from claim 4,

the module PCBs (202A) each being shaped for mating with one another, and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve members (103) of mated fluid valve modules (10).

10. A method (30A) of producing a fluid valve module (10), the method (30A) com prising

providing (301 ) a housing body (101 ) and a housing cover (108) of a housing; the housing body (101 ) comprising a fluid feed partition (104), a plurality of valve body partitions (105), and a plurality of valve ports (106);

the housing body (101 ) further comprising wall openings (107) between an interior of the fluid feed partition (104) and an exterior of the housing body (101 );

the valve body partitions (105) each being shaped for mating with the housing cover (108) in a fluid-tight manner, and each being in fluid communica tion with the fluid feed partition (104) and at least one of the valve ports (106); and arranging (302) a plurality of valve members (103) in respective valve body par titions (105) for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition (104) via the respective valve body partition (105) to the at least one of the valve ports (106); and

mating (303) the housing body (101 ) and the housing cover (108).

1 1 . The method (30A) of claim 10, further comprising

mating (304) a module PCB (202A) with the housing body (101 ) for electrically connecting the valve members (103).

12. A method (30B) of producing a fluid valve system (20), the method (30B) com prising

providing a plurality of fluid valve modules (10) of any one of claims 1 - 4 by performing the method (30A) of producing a fluid valve module (10) of claim 10 or 1 1 a plurality of times,

mating (305) the housings (101 , 108) of the fluid valve modules (10) with one another, thereby aligning the wall openings (107) with one another;

providing (306) at least one connecting means (201 ); and

concatenating (307) respective fluid feed partitions (104) of mated fluid valve modules (10) in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings (107) by a respective one of the at least one connecting means (201 ).

13. The method (30B) of claim 12 when not depending from claim 1 1 , further com prising

mating (308) a system PCB (202B) with the housing body (101 ) of the mated fluid valve modules (10), thereby electrically connecting the valve members (103) of the mated fluid valve modules (10).

14. The method (30B) of claim 12 when depending from claim 1 1 , further comprising mating (309) the module PCBs (202A) with one another, thereby electrically connecting the valve members (103) of the mated fluid valve modules (10).

15. A lumbar support unit (40A) for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating furniture, comprising

a fluid valve module (10) of any one of claims 1 - 4, or a fluid valve system (20) of any one of claims 5 - 9; and at least one air bladder (401 ) connected to the fluid valve module (10) or the fluid valve system (20).

16. A bolster unit (40B) for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating furni- ture, comprising

a fluid valve module (10) of any one of claims 1 - 4, or a fluid valve system (20) of any one of claims 5 - 9; and

at least one air bladder (401 ) connected to the fluid valve module (10) or the fluid valve system (20).

17. A massage unit (40C) for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating fur niture, comprising

a fluid valve system (20) of any one of claims 5 - 9; and

a plurality of air bladders (401 ) connected to the fluid valve system (20).

Description:
FLUID VALVE MODULE, FLUID VALVE SYSTEM AND METHODS OF

PRODUCING THE SAME

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

Various embodiments of the invention relate to a fluid valve module, a fluid valve sys tem and respective methods of producing the same. Various embodiments relate in particular to fluid valve modules and systems for use in automotive, aircraft or furniture seating.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Known valve systems used in seating applications typically perform customer-specific functions which may be provided by an integrated valve solution or a compound solu tions comprising several separate valves, so-called stand-alone designs.

Integrated valve solutions can't be adapted for every customer requirement, so that they can only be used in systems having same or reduced range of functions. For latter systems, this entails the disadvantages of excessive component costs and form factor.

The smaller valves of compound solutions involve even higher component costs and form factor, as well as higher manufacturing costs, since electrical and pneumatic seat interfaces have to be connected to each valve separately, which requires excessive cables, electrical plugs and pneumatic tubes.

US 2007/023089 A1 and DE 10 2005 060 217 A1 respectively disclose a valve includ ing a valve housing encompassing a pressure chamber and possessing at least two valve ports which open into the pressure chamber, whereby at least one axially slideable valve stem in the pressure chamber controls at least one of the valve ports.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the above, there is a need in the art for modular valve systems which address some of the above needs. In particular, there is a need in the art for modular valve solutions providing customer-required functions only, using a minimum of fundamental components, and thus entailing less component costs, manufacturing cost as well as form factor.

These underlying objects of the invention are each solved by the features as defined by the independent claims. Preferred embodiments of the invention are set forth in the dependent claims.

According to a first aspect, a fluid valve module is provided. The fluid valve module comprises a housing and a plurality of valve members. The housing comprises a hous ing body and a housing cover. The housing body comprises a fluid feed partition, a plurality of valve body partitions, and a plurality of valve ports. The housing body further comprises wall openings between an interior of the fluid feed partition and an exterior of the housing body. The valve body partitions are each shaped for mating with the housing cover in a fluid-tight manner, and are each in fluid communication with the fluid feed partition and at least one of the valve ports. The valve members are each arranged in a respective valve body partition for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition via the respective valve body partition to the at least one of the valve ports.

The housing cover may be formed as a housing lid.

The valve members may each comprise a respective valve actuator.

The respective valve actuator may comprise a solenoid.

The fluid valve module may further comprise a module PCB being shaped for mating with the housing body and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve mem bers.

According to a second aspect, a fluid valve system is provided. The fluid valve system comprises a plurality of fluid valve modules according various embodiments, and at least one connecting means or connecting element. The housings of the fluid valve modules are each shaped for mating with one another. The wall openings are arranged for alignment with one another upon mating of the housings of the fluid valve modules. The connecting means are arranged for concatenating respective fluid feed partitions of mated fluid valve modules in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings. As the fluid valve system according to this aspect comprises the plurality of fluid valve modules that may be coupled to each other as described above, an fluid valve system having a variable configuration may be obtained in the form of an individualized control system.

The housings of the fluid valve modules each may be shaped for mating with one an other in an abutting engagement of those walls of the housing bodies comprising the wall openings.

The connecting means may be sleeve-shaped for fitting into the aligned wall openings.

The fluid valve system may further comprise a system PCB being shaped for mating with the housing bodies of mated fluid valve modules, and being arranged for electri cally connecting the valve members of mated fluid valve modules.

Alternatively, the module PCBs may each be shaped for mating with one another, and may be arranged for electrically connecting the valve members of mated fluid valve modules.

According to a third aspect, a method of producing a fluid valve module is provided. The method comprises a step of providing a housing body and a housing cover of a housing. The housing body comprises a fluid feed partition, a plurality of valve body partitions, and a plurality of valve ports. The housing body further comprises wall open ings between an interior of the fluid feed partition and an exterior of the housing body. The valve body partitions are each shaped for mating with the housing cover in a fluid- tight manner, and are each in fluid communication with the fluid feed partition and at least one of the valve ports. The method further comprises a step of arranging a plu rality of valve members in respective valve body partitions for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition via the respective valve body partition to the at least one of the valve ports. The method further comprises a step of mating the housing body and the housing cover.

The method may further comprise a step of mating a module PCB with the housing body for electrically connecting the valve members.

According to a fourth aspect, a method of producing a fluid valve system is provided. The method comprises steps of producing a plurality of fluid valve modules of various embodiments by performing the method of producing a fluid valve module of various embodiments a plurality of times. The method further comprises a step of mating the housings of the fluid valve modules with one another, thereby aligning the wall open ings with one another. The method further comprises a step of providing at least one connecting means. The method further comprises a step of concatenating respective fluid feed partitions of mated fluid valve modules in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings by a respective one of the at least one connecting means.

The method may further comprise a step of mating a system PCB with the housing body of the mated fluid valve modules, thereby electrically connecting the valve mem bers of the mated fluid valve modules.

Alternatively, the method may further comprise a step of mating the module PCBs with one another, thereby electrically connecting the valve members of the mated fluid valve modules.

According to a fifth aspect, a lumbar support unit for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating furniture, comprises a fluid valve module according to various em bodiments, or a fluid valve system according to various embodiments; and at least one air bladder connected to the fluid valve module or the fluid valve system.

According to a sixth aspect, a bolster unit for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating furniture, comprises

a fluid valve module of various embodiments, or a fluid valve system of various em bodiments; and at least one air bladder connected to the fluid valve module or the fluid valve system.

According to a seventh aspect, a massage unit for an automotive seat, an aircraft seat, or a seating furniture, comprises a fluid valve system of various embodiments; and a plurality of air bladders connected to the fluid valve system.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the invention will be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which the same or similar reference numerals designate the same or sim ilar elements. Figs. 1 and 2 illustrate an exemplary fluid valve system of an embodiment, exemplarily comprising three fluid valve modules of various embodiments.

Fig. 3 illustrates methods of producing a fluid valve module and a fluid valve system, respectively.

Figs. 4 and 5 illustrate actuation units of embodiments respectively comprising a fluid valve module or a fluid valve system of various embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the drawings. While some embodiments will be described in the context of specific fields of application, the embodiments are not limited to this field of application. Further, the features of the various embodiments may be combined with each other unless specif ically stated otherwise.

The drawings are to be regarded as being schematic representations and elements illustrated in the drawings are not necessarily shown to scale. Rather, the various ele ments are represented such that their function and general purpose become apparent to a person skilled in the art.

A“fluid” as used herein may refer to a substance being in a state of matter wherein the substance continually deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. In particular, fluids include liquids and gases, such as pressurized air.

A“housing” as used herein may refer to an enclosure providing protection from exter nal factors, such as, for instance, contamination or differential pressure.

“Mating” as used herein may refer to joining or fitting together separate items being matched to one another, particularly in terms of shape, design and/or function so as to complement each other with respect to a fit and/or engagement with one another. An“opening” as used herein may refer to a through hole in a solid structure that pro vides a barrier or enclosure, such as a wall. The through hole may, in particular, have a circular cross-section.

A“partition” as used herein may refer to a section of a housing serving a particular purpose. For instance, a“fluid feed partition” as used herein may refer to a partition through which a fluid feed for rendering an actuation energy is accomplished. For in stance, a“valve body partition” as used herein may refer to a partition serving as a valve body for enclosing a valve member.

A“printed circuit board” or PCB as used herein may refer to a sheet-like structure arranged for providing mechanical support and electrical connectivity using conductive features etched from one or more metallic sheet layers laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate.

A“valve” or“fluid valve” as used herein may refer to a device for adjustable control of throughflow of a fluid between valve ports and via a valve body, using an actuatable valve member enclosed in the valve body to open, close, or partially obstruct a pas sageway between the ports. The fluid generally flows from higher to lower pressure if the passageway (or simply: the valve) is open or only partially obstructed. Valves may be classified according to their number of ports P and their number of operating states S as P/S valves, such as 2/2, 3/2, and 3/3 valves, for instance. Valves controlling throughflow of gases, such as pressurized air, are known as pneumatic valves.

A“valve member” is an actuatable obstruction in a passageway between valve ports. A valve member may be actuated by a valve actuator, for instance an electromechan ical actuator such as a solenoid. A valve member may be allowed to be removed from a normal/default position maintained by spring-loading. For instance, a 2/2 valve may be normally closed or normally open.

A“valve port” as used herein may refer to a terminal of a valve allowing inflow and/or outflow of a fluid.

Figs. 1 and 2 illustrate an exemplary fluid valve system 20 of an embodiment, exem- plarily comprising three fluid valve modules 10 of various embodiments. As illustrated in both Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, it will be appreciated that each fluid valve module 10 comprises a housing and a plurality of valve members 103.

Turning to the housings of the fluid valve modules 10, the respective housing com prises a housing body 101 and a housing cover 108, which housing cover 108 is best seen in Fig. 2. The respective housing body 101 comprises a fluid feed partition 104, a plurality of valve body partitions 105, and a plurality of valve ports 106. In particular, the fluid feed partition 104 as well as the plurality of valve body partitions 105 may each form cavities in the respective housing body 101 . The respective housing body 101 further comprises wall openings 107 between an interior of the fluid feed partition 104 and an exterior of the housing body 101 . In particular, the wall openings 107 may have circular cross-sections. The valve body partitions 105 are each shaped for mating with the housing cover in a fluid-tight manner, and are each in fluid communication with the fluid feed partition 104 and at least one of the valve ports 106, in particular via further wall openings between the interiors of respective partitions 104, 106.

Turning to the valve members 103 of the fluid valve modules 10, the valve members 103 may each comprise a respective valve actuator, and the respective valve actuator may comprise a solenoid. The valve members 103 are each arranged in respective valve body partitions 105 for controlling a passage of a fluid from the respective fluid feed partition 104 via the respective valve body partition 105 to the at least one of the valve ports 106.

Differently to known stand-alone valve solutions, the valve members (and actuators) 103 are grouped to modular functional blocks, i.e. , the above-described fluid valve modules 10, and not maintained separately. Each functional block is arranged for ac tuation of a modular actuation unit such as lumbar support, bolstering and massaging units in seating applications, for instance, for which two or more known valves would be needed. This yields a modular fluid valve construction system which is based on a small number of fundamental components and requires only a limited number of func tional blocks to be maintained. As a result, a number of mechanical interfaces is de creased, production and logistics are simplified, and a bill of material as well as ex penses for production and logistics are reduced.

Different to known integrated valve solutions, the functional blocks are modular parts based on which prototyping and provisioning of customer- or application-specific fluid valve systems is simplified, since a same fluid valve module can be re-used for differ ent fluid valve systems and customers. As only customer-required functions are pro vided, a minimum of fundamental components or functional blocks is needed. As a result, a bill of material as well as expenses for production and logistics are reduced. In addition, a form factor of the resulting fluid valve systems is be reduced.

Forming larger fluid value systems 20 is facilitated since the housings of the fluid valve modules 10 are each shaped for mating with one another to form the fluid value system 20. In particular, the housings of the fluid valve modules 10 may each be shaped for mating with one another in an abutting engagement of those walls of the housing bod ies 101 comprising the wall openings 107. The wall openings 107 are arranged for alignment with one another upon mating of the housings of the fluid valve modules 10, i.e. , upon mating of the fluid valve modules 10.

With continued reference to the fluid value system 20 shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, the fluid valve system 20 comprises at least one connecting means or connecting element 201 which is arranged for concatenating respective fluid feed partitions 104 of mated fluid valve modules 10 in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings 107. In particular, the connecting means 201 may be sleeve-shaped for fitting into the aligned wall openings 107. Alternatively, the connecting means 201 may be formed by projec tions, recesses and/or openings of the housing bodies 101 being arranged for concat enating the respective fluid feed partitions 104 of mated fluid valve modules 10 in a fluid-tight manner without using separate connecting elements.

Depending on the respective design requirements of the fluid valve system, the con necting means 201 may be mounted to the fluid valve system prior or after the assem bly of the individual fluid valve modules 10.

Different to known valve solutions, a fluid supply can be realized by a common fluid feed. This eliminates excessive and error-prone electrical wiring.

The fluid valve module 10 according to embodiments may further comprise a module PCB 202A being shaped for mating with the housing body 101 and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve members 103. The module PCBs 202A may each be shaped for mating with one another, and be arranged for electrically connecting the valve members 103 of mated fluid valve modules 10. Alternatively, as illustrated in Figs. 1 and 2, the fluid valve system 20 may further comprise a system PCB 202B being shaped for mating with the housing bodies 101 of mated fluid valve modules 10, and being arranged for electrically connecting the valve members 103 of mated fluid valve modules 10.

Different to known valve solutions, an energy supply can be realized by a common mains connection via a common system PCB or via a plurality of module PCBs 202A. This eliminates excessive and error-prone electrical wiring. A system PCB provides a high mechanical rigidity to a fluid value system, but may also increase the number of components of the modular fluid valve construction system. By contrast, modular PCBs may not increase the number of components of the modular fluid valve construction system as much, at the expense of mechanical rigidity of the fluid value system.

Fig. 3 illustrates methods 30A, 30B of producing a fluid valve module 10 and a fluid valve system 20, respectively.

With reference to an upper section of Fig. 3, it will be appreciated that the method 30A of producing a fluid valve module 10 comprises steps 301 - 303, and may comprise step 304, which steps are represented as shaded boxes.

At step 301 , a housing body 101 and a housing cover of a housing are provided 301 . The housing body 101 comprises a fluid feed partition 104, a plurality of valve body partitions 105, and a plurality of valve ports 106. The housing body 101 further com prises wall openings 107 between an interior of the fluid feed partition 104 and an exterior of the housing body 101 . The valve body partitions 105 are each shaped for mating with the housing cover in a fluid-tight manner, and are each in fluid communi cation with the fluid feed partition 104 and at least one of the valve ports 106.

At step 302, a plurality of valve members 103 is arranged 302 in respective valve body partitions 105 for controlling a passage of a fluid from the fluid feed partition 104 via the respective valve body partition 105 to the at least one of the valve ports 106.

At step 303, the housing body 101 and the housing cover are mated 303.

At step 304, a module PCB 202A is mated 304 with the housing body 101 for electri cally connecting the valve members 103. The method 30A may be performed a plurality of times for producing a plurality of fluid valve modules 10 of various embodiments.

With reference to Fig. 3 as a whole, it will be appreciated that the method 30B of pro ducing a fluid valve system 20 comprises, besides the above-mentioned steps of method 30A, further steps 305 - 307, and may comprise any one of further steps 308 or 309, which further steps are represented as unshaded boxes.

The method 30B uses the products directly obtained by method 30A, which endorses the modularity of the resulting fluid valve system 20.

At step 305, the housings of the fluid valve modules 10 are mated 305 with one an other, thereby aligning the wall openings 107 with one another.

At step 306, at least one connecting means 201 is provided 306.

At step 307, respective fluid feed partitions 104 of mated fluid valve modules 10 are concatenated 307 in a fluid-tight manner via the aligned wall openings 107 by a re spective one of the at least one connecting means 201 .

At step 308, which may be performed alternatively to step 309, a system PCB 202B is mated 308 with the housing body 101 of the mated fluid valve modules 10, thereby electrically connecting the valve members 103 of the mated fluid valve modules 10.

At step 309, which may be performed alternatively to step 308, the module PCBs 202A, if provided, are mated 309 with one another, thereby electrically connecting the valve members 103 of the mated fluid valve modules 10.

Figs. 4 and 5 illustrate actuation units 40A, 40B, 40C of embodiments respectively comprising a fluid valve module 10 or a fluid valve system 20 of various embodiments.

Fluid valve modules 10 and fluid valve systems 20 of various embodiments may be used in automotive, aircraft, and furniture seating applications for actuation of various modular actuation units such as lumbar support, bolstering and massaging units 40A, 40B, 40C. According to Fig. 4, a lumbar support unit 40A and a bolster unit 40B of embodiments respectively comprise a fluid valve module 10 or a fluid valve system 20 of various embodiments, and at least one air bladder 401 connected to the fluid valve module 10 or the fluid valve system 20.

According to Fig. 5, a massage unit 40C of an embodiment comprises a fluid valve system 20 of various embodiments, and a plurality of air bladders 401 connected to the fluid valve system 20.

While fluid valve modules and fluid valve systems and methods of producing the same according to various embodiments have been described, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention is not so limited and that the present invention may be carried out in other ways than those specifically set forth herein without de parting from essential characteristics of the invention. The present embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, and all changes coming within the meaning and equivalency range of the appended claims are intended to be embraced therein.