|Publication number||US20070199210 A1|
|Application number||US 11/362,248|
|Publication date||30 Aug 2007|
|Filing date||24 Feb 2006|
|Priority date||24 Feb 2006|
|Also published as||EP1825996A1, WO2007100656A2, WO2007100656A3|
|Publication number||11362248, 362248, US 2007/0199210 A1, US 2007/199210 A1, US 20070199210 A1, US 20070199210A1, US 2007199210 A1, US 2007199210A1, US-A1-20070199210, US-A1-2007199210, US2007/0199210A1, US2007/199210A1, US20070199210 A1, US20070199210A1, US2007199210 A1, US2007199210A1|
|Inventors||David Vattes, Peter Dillon|
|Original Assignee||The Timberland Company|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Referenced by (57), Classifications (33), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates generally to articles of footwear and, more particularly, to articles of footwear having multilayer molded uppers.
Typically, many types of footwear are made by what is known as a cut and sew method, in which individual pieces of material are cut out and sewn together to form the three dimensional (“3-D”) shape of a footwear upper. In such a process, individual pieces of material are cut out according to a pattern, in which individual pieces are designated to form specified portions of the shoe upper. When the pieces are cut out, they are typically marked according to the portion of the upper which they are intended to form. The individual pieces are bonded, stitched and then lasted, giving the shoe the necessary 3-D shape. Other portions of the shoe may then be attached to the upper, such as an outsole, midsole, footbed, etc.
Such a method requires a large number of steps, each requiring a skilled person for completion thereof. This increases the overall manufacturing cost and can lead to throughput problems arising from bottlenecks in one step of the process. For example, the absence of the person responsible for one step in the process can shut down an entire production line of footwear. Furthermore, the use of such complicated individual pieces leads to a product that is more difficult to design, requiring the design of both the individual pieces and how the pieces will fit together to form the shape of the shoe upper. This further contributes to increased costs of the finished product, and increases lead time when designing the shoe.
Alternative methods of shoe production have been developed which use various molding techniques to create the shoe upper. Such methods generally use a type of thermoformable polymeric material, such as plastic, to create individual parts of the shoe upper or the upper as a whole. One such method includes injection molding of a thermoplastic into a non-planar 3-D mold to form the shape of the shoe upper. This decreases the time needed to form the shoe. However, the injection molding method presents significant additional problems. Specifically, the complicated molds necessary to form the 3-D shape of a shoe upper increase costs and lead time due to the time required to manufacture these molds. Furthermore, although molding creates advantages such as faster forming of the basic shape of the shoe upper, such benefits can be outweighed by the fact that additional process steps must be performed after molding of the shoe in order to control material creep. Creep is when the foaming reaction to heat energy continues causing expansion of the foam material. If not controlled, creep can result in continued expansion of the polymer. This causes the shoe upper to stretch, which affects the fit quality of the shoe. Additionally, because the majority of the shoe upper is formed in a single process step, there are no available intermediate steps that can control factory defects in the upper of the shoe. Such defects typically arise due to the difficulty in controlling the expansion of foam after injection into the mold, particularly during cooling. In order to control such defects, tolerances within the molds need to be widened, which can lead to overall fit problems with the finished product.
An alternative method includes forming a 3-D footwear upper by compression molding a sheet of material, including a layer of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) having a predetermined thickness, into a 3-D form. However, this method does not alleviate the expense required by complex 3-D molds or the increased product lead time associated therewith. In addition to being able to control expansion of the polymer during molding, this method allows additional materials to be added to shoe upper during formation thereof, which helps to control creep and stretching of the product. This is typically accomplished by interposing between two moldable, thermoplastic layers, a fabric or other suitable material that possess appropriate tensile properties.
Limitations in such a process arise, particularly from the materials, namely TPU, that are used in the 3-D compression molding. Such materials are often somewhat thick or dense, resulting in shoe uppers that are too rigid or inflexible for practical purposes of footwear. The relative weight of TPU can also make it less desirable for use in a shoe upper. For example, the specific gravity of TPU can be approximately 1.0 to 1.1 where other materials, such as EVA foam, can be up to five times lighter. Additionally, footwear made from material including TPU retains heat and can make the foot hot, causing discomfort to the wearer.
Additionally, it is difficult to mold a 3-D shape from a single sheet of material having both thermoplastic and fabric materials, fabric not being thermoplastic. This causes difficulty in molding the complex 3-D shape of the shoe upper because thermoplastic and non-thermoplastic materials conform to the mold differently. This can tend to separate the materials during forming. All of the materials to be molded in such a process must possess thermoformable properties. The use of non-thermoformable materials can cause problems in the overall integrity of the product or the reliability of the process, leading to increased factory defects from the difficulty to control the molding process. Additionally, compression molding of a 3-D form from a flat substrate of material can lead to thinning of certain layers of the material during formation because the material must stretch to conform to the mold. This can weaken the overall material or diminish the foot protective properties of the materials used to form the upper. It also limits the ability of the shoe to be formed with decorative or protective features on the shoe upper. Stretching can also make it difficult to control the overall compression of the foam, which is desirous in compression molding because compression helps to bond the layers of material together.
Therefore, it is necessary to provide footwear uppers that possess the advantages of foam, particularly with respect to protection of the foot, durability, and other such properties, while providing a shoe with acceptable flexibility and ease of manufacture. Additionally, with the use of foam and compression molding process, there is a reduction in manufacturing cost, an increase in versatility of design and an increase in the number of various materials which may be used. The shoe, particularly the upper should be structured to utilize the desired properties of foam while minimizing creep and stretching in an effective manner, or to provide other additional beneficial properties to the foam material from which the upper is constructed. It is further desirous to provide a shoe upper that has features formed thereon, but which may be formed from an otherwise planar piece of material. Such features can provide an enhanced, more secure fit to the amorphous shape of the foot and/or provide additional protection. It is also desirous to provide a method for making such footwear that can be carried out in a limited number of process steps while compensating for defects that may arise during other molding processes. Such a method should utilize materials and methods already employed in the art. It is further desired to provide a method for manufacturing such footwear that eliminates the need for complex 3-D molds, while taking advantage of the benefits present in compression molded products.
The present invention relates to an article of footwear having an upper which includes a first foam layer having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface, a second foam layer having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface, and a middle layer having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface. The first surface of the middle layer is affixed to the second surface of the first foam layer, and the second surface of the middle layer is affixed to the first surface of the second foam layer. The upper defines at least a portion of a foot receiving cavity for the article of footwear.
Preferably, at least one of the first and second foam layers of the upper is made from an open-cell foam. Additionally, least one of the first and second foam layers preferably comprises a thermoformable foam, which can include either a termoset foam or a thermoplastic foam. A thermoplastic foam used in the article of footwear may be an EVA foam.
In an upper according to an embodiment of the present invention the first foam layer further includes a feature affixed to the first surface thereof. The feature may be in the form of a protective feature located in, for example, the toe region of the upper. Alternatively, the feature can be a supportive feature located in, for example, the ankle region of the upper. The feature is preferably integrally formed with the first foam layer or the second foam layer. In an alternative embodiment, the feature comprises a coating applied to at least a portion of the first surface of the first foam layer. Such a coating can comprise a latex paint or a lacquer.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the first foam layer, the second foam layer, and the middle layer form a unitary piece of layered material having a first seam and a second seam. The unitary piece of layered material may define a first substantially seamless portion on a medial side of the upper between the first seam and the second seam. The upper may further define a second substantially seamless portion on a lateral side of the upper between the first seam and the second seam. In a preferred embodiment, the first seam is positioned at the heal section of the upper, and the second seam is positioned at the toe section of the upper.
An alternative embodiment of the present invention relates to an article of footwear having a sole and a unitary upper that is formed of a layered material and affixed to the sole. The layered material has a first foam layer, a second foam layer, and a middle layer interposed between the first and second foam layers. The upper defines at least a portion of a foot-receiving cavity of the article of footwear. Preferably, the middle layer is adhesively affixed between the first and second foam layers. The middle layer is preferably a mesh textile material.
It is preferred that the first and second foam layers each comprise a thermoformable foam. Preferably, the thermoformable foam is a thermoplastic foam, and, more preferably, thermoplastic foam is an EVA foam. The EVA foam may comprise an open-cell foam. Alternatively, the thermoformable foam may comprise a polyester, a polyether or a latex foam.
A further embodiment of the present invention relates to a method for making an article of footwear. The method includes providing a first foam layer, a second foam layer and a middle layer, and integrally forming the first foam layer, the second foam layer and the middle layer by interposing the middle layer between the first foam layer and the second foam layer to form a blank defining a profile having first and second mating portions. The method further includes forming an upper defining a portion of a foot receiving cavity from the blank by aligning the first and second mating portions. Integrally forming the first foam layer, second foam layer and middle layer may include compression molding the first and second foam layers and the middle layer together. A first seam can be formed from the first mating portion, and a second seam can be formed from the second mating portion.
In the method according to the present embodiment of the invention, the compression molding may include the use of a mold. The mold can further be used to form a sole for the article of footwear concurrently with the integral forming of the first foam layer, second foam layer and middle layer. Preferably, integrally forming the first foam layer, second foam layer and middle layer further includes adhesively affixing the middle layer between the first foam layer and the second foam layer. In an alternative embodiment, integrally forming the first foam layer, second foam layer and middle layer may include cold molding of the first and second foam layers and the middle layer. Cold molding can be carried out using rollers or plates which may be substantially flat. The method of the present embodiment can further include trimming the layered material after molding thereof. In a further embodiment of the present invention, the method includes applying a coating to the first surface of the first foam layer after compression molding thereof.
Additionally, the method of the present embodiment may further include affixing an insole to the upper at an outside edge thereof so as to define a foot receiving cavity therebetween. A last may then be inserted into the foot receiving cavity of the article of footwear. The upper may then be reheated so as to form the upper to the shape of the last. The upper may then be allowed to cool and the last can be removed from the foot receiving cavity.
A further embodiment of the present invention relates to an article of footwear having a unitary upper and a sole. The upper is formed from a layered material, forms at least a portion of a foot receiving cavity of the article of footwear, and is affixed to the upper. The article of footwear of the present embodiment is formed by the process of providing a first foam layer, a second foam layer and a middle layer and integrally forming the first foam layer, the second foam layer and the middle layer by interposing the middle layer between the first foam layer and the second foam layer to form a blank. The blank preferably defines a profile having first and second mating portions. An upper is formed from the blank by forming first and second seams from the first and second mating portions. The sole is then affixed to the upper.
In a preferred embodiment the first foam layer, second foam layer and middle layer are integrally formed by compression molding. Additionally, the step of integrally forming may include adhesively affixing the middle layer between the first foam layer and the second foam layer. The adhesive used in the step of integrally forming is preferably heat activated. In a further embodiment, the middle layer is formed of a textile material defining a plurality of open portions such that the step of compression molding forces the first foam layer and the second foam layer into mutual contact within the open portions so as provide tensile strength to the layered material.
An additional embodiment of the present invention relates to an article of footwear comprising a sole, and a unitary upper affixed to the sole so as to define a foot receiving cavity therein. The unitary upper is formed of a layered material consisting essentially of a first layer of a thermoformable foam having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface thereof, and a second layer having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface thereof. The second surface of the first layer is affixed to the first surface of the second layer. The upper defines at least a portion of a foot-receiving cavity. The second layer may be formed from a textile material.
The first surface of the first layer may be disposed toward the foot receiving cavity such that the second surface of the second layer is spaced apart from the foot receiving cavity. Further, the first layer may include a feature affixed to the first surface thereof, which may be integrally formed with the first foam layer.
An alternative embodiment of the present invention relates to an article of footwear including an upper and a bottom affixed to the upper, wherein the upper and the bottom are formed from a unitary piece of layered material. The layered material includes a first layer of thermoformable foam having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface thereof and a second layer having a first surface and a second surface remote from the first surface thereof. The second surface of the first layer is affixed to the first surface of the second layer. The second layer may include a first region and a second region, the first region comprising a first material and the second region comprising a second material. The first material may be a rubber and the second material may be a textile.
The present invention will be better understood on reading the following detailed description of non-limiting embodiments thereof, and on examining the accompanying drawings, in which:
In describing the preferred embodiments of the subject matter illustrated and to be described with respect to drawings, specific terminology will be employed for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terms so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.
Referring to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals represent like elements, there is shown in
Upper 12 is structured to securely hold the foot of a wearer and, to the extent possible, maintain the foot in contact with insole 14. Upper 12 is also preferably designed to provide support for the foot and to protect the foot from injury. Preferably, upper 12 covers the metatarsal and toe region of the foot as well as the instep portion and the heel portion of the foot. Optionally, upper 12 extends over the ankle of the wearer, providing support and protection thereto. Accordingly, upper 12 includes sections that correspond to the areas of the foot. These areas include the toe portion 20, the instep portion 25 and the heel portion 22. Instep portion 25 is further divided into medial 26 and lateral 28 portions, respectively. As discussed above, in typical shoe construction the individual portions of the shoe are generally formed from one or more separate, cut-out pieces of material per section. For example, medial and lateral portions 26, 28 of instep portion 25 are typically formed from quarter panels. Such a construction, results in the typical shoe upper being composed of numerous parts that are sewn and/or glued together.
Referring now to
Upper 12 is desirably made from a layered material 44. As shown in
Preferably, a foam having thermoformable properties is selected so that the foam is compatible with compression molding to form layered material 44. Desired thermoformable properties include both thermoset and thermoplastic properties as are understood in the art. Such a foam may preferably be formed form a sheet stock foam, which is understood in the art to include rolled goods, having thermoformable properties. Thermoformable foams can be molded into various shapes using compression molding. Features may also be incorporated into the layered material 44, which is otherwise generally planar in form. As shown in
Similarly, as shown in
In addition to having thermoformable properties, the foam(s) used in the layered material 44 is preferably hydrolytically stable and does not absorb or breakdown in the presence of water. Additionally, the foam(s) selected should be lightweight, e.g., having a specific gravity of about 0.20 or less than 0.50. Preferably, the specific gravity is between 0.15 and 0.30, and more preferably, between 0.20 and 0.25. Most preferably, the foam(s) selected has a specific gravity of about 0.22. EVA foam is particularly suitable for first 46 and second 48 layers of layered material 44 because it falls within such parameters. Other materials that can be used for first 46 and second 48 layers include polyester, polyether and latex. Polyester and polyether are useful due to their stability in the presence of water. TPU is not suitable for the layers at the layered material 44 according to the present invention because it holds in heat, may discolor in the presence of water, can take permanent length if stretched, and, is generally less flexible than thermoformable foams.
It is not necessary that first layer 46 and second layer 48 be composed of the same material. In one particular embodiment of shoe 10, first layer 46 and second layer 48 may be formed of different materials, or the same material having different properties, such as specific gravity or durometer, in order to provide specified features for each of these layers, such as insulation for warmth, breathability, protection of the foot, rigidity and/or flexibility, pressure distribution and comfort. Selection of such properties will be understood by those having reasonable skill in the art. Further, each of the layers 46, 48 may be formed of one or more layers of material, which may have different properties, e.g., insulation, breathability, protection, durability, rigidity, flexibility, color, etc.
Middle layer 50 is interposed between first layer 46 and second layer 48. Middle layer 50 may be selected in order to lend an additional property to layered material 44, such as breathability, waterproofing, and/or tensile support. Generally, the types of foams used to form first layer 46 and second layer 48 have a low modulus of elasticity, such that they are susceptible to migration, tearing, or stretching while in use. The materials in a shoe upper are generally under tensile stress while in use. Therefore, when materials such as foam are used to form a shoe upper, the stress from tightening of the shoe onto the foot can cause the foam to stretch, significantly affecting the fit and performance of the shoe. Providing a middle layer 50 having a high tensile strength alleviates the problem of material deformation or elongation. Additionally, the middle layer 50 may also provide benefits such as breathability of the shoe upper 12, while maintaining the advantageous properties of the foam layers 46, 48. Optionally, middle layer 50 may be interposed between first and second layers 46, 48 throughout the entire upper 12 or throughout only a portion thereof, including instep portion 25, heel portion 18 or toe portion 20. Further, different materials for middle layer 50 can be used in different regions of upper 12. Middle layer 50 may be partly or completely interposed between the layers 46 and 50, e.g., covering some or all of the surfaces of layers 46 and 48 which face one another.
In one embodiment, middle layer 50 is composed of a textile mesh material. Such construction is further advantageous because it allows layered material 44 to be integrally formed via a compression molding process such that a fiber matrix is formed in which first layer 46 and second layer 48 extend between and fill spaces between fibers composing the mesh textile material. Such a structure greatly increases the tensile strength of the layered material 44, without reducing the overall flexibility of layered material 44. Alternative materials may be used to form middle layer 50 including leathers, non-woven fabrics and/or waterproof materials such as rubber or, more preferably, PFTE or other such waterproof, breathable membranes such as Gore-Tex® brand membranes. A combination of different materials may also be used in middle layer 50, combining properties thereof. For example, rubber and mesh can be used in combination to provide both waterproof and high-tensile properties to layered material 44. Middle layer 50 may also have multiple layers or regions of the same or different materials.
Breathability of the shoe upper 12 can be further enhanced by providing a breathable middle layer 50 for layered material 44. When such material is used for middle layer 50, it is advantageous to provide a number of ventilation windows 33 in upper 12 through both first layer 46 and second layer 48 of layered material 44. By not cutting a window in middle layer 50, the general shape of the upper is maintained due to the tensile properties of the middle layer 60. The degree of ventilation can be adjusted by the size and number of ventilation windows placed in upper 12. Such would be understood by those having reasonable skill in the art. Preferably, windows are formed from layered material by cutting out matching sections of first layer 46 and second layer 48 prior to being integrally formed into layered material with middle layer 50. Alternatively, the first and second layers do not need to match, as long as there are substantially breathable windows in each layer.
Additional features which may be incorporated into shoe 10 include a tongue and/or gusset 38, which extends along the instep portion of the wearer's foot underneath laces 31 and can be fastened to upper 12 near the metatarsal section of upper 12 at the end of the eyestay 29. Collar 36 can be affixed with or without a liner running from the heel section to the front of the ankle section. Additionally, an inner boot or bootie (not shown) can be fitted within upper 12 such that it partially or fully envelops the foot of wearer of the shoe 10, providing additional support or protection therefore. An inner boot is typically made from neoprene or similar material and may be provided within foot receiving cavity 13. A footbed (not shown) may be utilized with or without the inner boot.
In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the layered material 44 used to form upper 12 consists essentially of two layers of material. One layer of the material 44 may be a suitable thermoformable foam material, which, as discussed above, is desirably selected to have properties and characteristics similar to those of EVA foam. The other layer of material may be any material which is suitable for middle layer 50, as discussed above, e.g., a textile mesh, non-woven fabric or a leather, but not TPU. The two layers of material can be arranged such that the foam layer is disposed adjacent to the foot receiving cavity 13 with the other layer being spaced apart therefrom and facing the outside of the shoe. Alternatively, the non-foam layer can be disposed adjacent to the foot receiving cavity with the foam layer being spaced apart therefrom and facing the outside of the shoe 10. While the layered material 44 in this embodiment is said to consist essentially of two layers, other elements may optionally be present in layered material 44, although they are not essential to the present aspect of the invention. For example, layered material 44 can include interior or exterior features 32 or partial coverings or coatings thereon.
Referring now, generally, to
The structure of upper 12 results in upper 12 having appreciably fewer stitched or cemented areas than a typical shoe upper. A preferred embodiment of the present invention has only two stitched areas (or seams) therein, which are sewn into upper 12 to form the 3-D geometry of upper 12 from a unitary, flat piece of material referred generally herein as blank 70 (
The reduced number of seams present in upper 12 results in upper 12 defining portions thereof that are substantially seamless. A preferred embodiment of upper 12, having seams only in the toe 20 and heal 18 portions, has two substantially seamless portions extending between the toe seam 24 and the heel seam 23. When referring to a portion of shoe 10 as substantially seamless, a seam is understood to be made between adjoining sections of upper 12. For example, upper 12, may be stitched or otherwise affixed along the outer edge thereof to for example, a lasting insole 14 as in strobel or strip lasting, outsole 16 when the method of attachment is, for example, stitch out, or another portion of shoe 10 along a portion of upper 12 that is nonetheless considered substantially seamless. The first substantially seamless portion runs along the medial side 28 of the upper 12, while the other substantially seamless portion runs along the lateral side 28 of the upper 12. It is beneficial to reduce the number of seams within upper 12 not only for ease of assembly and reduced production cost, but also because doing so results in a stronger, more durable upper. Alternative arrangements of seams within the design of upper 12 will result in different locations for the substantially seamless portions. For example, seams could be included in the instep 25 portion of the upper, particularly in the medial 26 and lateral 28 portions, extending from the eyestay 29 or collar 35 portions to the nearest outside edge of upper 12. Such an arrangement would result in the heel 18 and toe 20 portions being substantially seamless. Additional arrangements of seams and substantially seamless portions would be apparent to those having reasonable skill in the art upon reading this disclosure.
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, blank 70 is formed from layered material 44, as described above with respect to steps S10-S70. While layered material 44 can be formed in a first stage as shown in steps S30-S60, and then blank 70 can be formed by cutting layered material 44 to the appropriate dimensional, step S70, it is preferred that the two are formed simultaneously by cutting the stock material layers used to form the layered material into the approximate shape for blank 70 and then compression molding the layers together. Compression molding is ideal for assembly of the individual layers into layered material 44, because it allows complex shapes to be formed into the surfaces of layered material 44, as discussed above. Further, compression molding can, in certain embodiments of the present invention, further enhance the integral forming of layered material 44, compared to conventional methods, by forming a fiber matrix from first and second foam layers 46, 48 and a mesh middle layer 50.
Preferably, the materials used to form layered material 44 are prepared separately before being combined into layered material 44. This may include cutting the individual layers 46, 48, 50 into the approximate shape desired for blank 70 as shown in step S20. An example of the desired shape for blank 70 is shown in
In the example shown in
First layer 46 and second layer 48 can, optionally, include features 32 preformed therein, preferably during extrusion of the stock from which first layer and second layer are cut. Alternatively, features 32 can be formed into first layer 46 and/or second layer 48 after extrusion. Such formation of features 32 could require the design of mold 100 to accommodate such features. As a further alternative, features 32 may be formed from an additional piece of foam or other material that is affixed to layered material 44 in desired portions thereof. Such features can be decorative and, thus could be refined in shape during compression molding of layered material 44, which is discussed below. Additionally, one or both of first layer 46 and second layer 48 can include a plurality of windows 42 cut out therein which are desirably located in substantially the same position in the first layer 46 and second layer 48. The materials used to form layered material 44 can be cut to the exact dimensions of the final product, step 20. Conversely, a “rough-cut” can be used to give an approximate size in length, width, and thickness of the material. The use of a rough cut is preferred because it allows the final cut, as seen in step S70, to be used to correct irregularities in alignment and ensures an edge for the visible parts of upper where all layers are aligned and allows for wider tolerance for the compression mold.
First layer 46, second layer 48, and middle layer 50 are next prepared for compression molding. It is possible that, simply compression molding the materials will not properly adhere the materials together to integrally form layered material 44. Thus, an adhesive is preferably applied before compression molding to provide additional bonding between the layers at step S30. The particular adhesive used is preferably heat activated and is used by first applying a primer to the inside surface of first layer and the inside surface 56 of second layer 48 as well as to both sides of middle layer 50. A coating of cement may then be applied to all primed areas of first layer 46, second layer 48, and middle layer 50 in step S40. The cement is preferably composed of a synthetic resin co-polymer that is heat activated, although other alternatives are known in the art, such as urethane cement. After application of the adhesive, heat is applied to the cement, thereby activating the adhesive properties thereof at step S40. The three layers are combined in step 50 such that middle layer 50 is interposed between first layer 46 and second layer 48.
The combined layers are then placed in a heated compression mold at step S60 in order to complete the integral forming of layered material 44 and for forming of any desired features 32 within or on layered material 44. The time needed for compression molding will vary with the materials and the geometry of any features to be formed, but can typically take about 7-8 minutes. A preferred embodiment of mold 100 is shown in
Mold 100 may be configured to receive layered material 44, which may have a generally planar shape. However, as previously discussed, it may be desired to add features 32 to the second or first surface of upper 12, which can be accomplished by forming corresponding receptacles 110 into cavity 106 and cavity 108 of mold 100. The use of such receptacles 110 within mold 100 results in areas of the foam layers which are not compressed at all, or are compressed less than the majority of the layered material 44. Additionally, mold 100 can include a cavity (not shown) for forming the sole 16 of shoe 10 concurrently with the compression molding of upper 12.
Alternative variations for compression mold 100 include the use of flat plates or rolling. The flat plates used in such compression molding may have a similar structure to the outside 102 and inside portions 104 illustrated in
Once the appropriate time has elapsed for compression molding of layered material 44, e.g., between seven to eight minutes, compression mold 110 is desirably placed in a cooling press (not shown) such that the resulting layered material 44 is allowed to cool and become substantially impliable. Such a process may take between 3 and 7 minutes, but will preferably take between 4 and 6 minutes. Most preferably cooling takes on the order of about 5 minutes, but will vary with the materials used, the thickness thereof, and the temperature of the mold. For example, in an embodiment of the present invention, first and second layers 46, 48 are made from EVA foam, each layer having a thickness of about 3 mm. The combined layers are placed in a compression mold at a temperature of between 145 and 165 degrees, Celsius, for between 6 and 8 minutes, which requires a cooling time of between 3 and 7 minutes, and preferably of about 5 minutes. Once the time needed for cooling has elapsed, mold 100 is removed from the cooling press and opened. Then blank 70, made of integrally formed layered material 44, is removed from compression mold 100. If necessary, the outer edges of layered material are trimmed to meet the exact guidelines of the upper pattern and to remove any defects or irregularities arising during the formation of layered material 44. The trimming step desirably includes removal of a portion of middle layer 50 from within collar portion 36 of upper 12, and may also include cutting exactly the outer perimeter of the layered material 44 in order to form blank 70.
Alternatively, mold 100 can be unheated, or “cold,” meaning that the mold will be at or near the ambient air temperature. In such a variation of the process of the current invention, referred to herein as “cold molding,” layered material 44 is heated prior to being placed in mold 100. Layered material can be heated in, for example, an oven or using a heat gun. Such a process is useful because it reduces cycle time and improves productivity. Another benefit is that it reduces fabric exposure to high temperatures and direct contact with a hot metal mold. With the use of cold molding, non-textile materials may be introduced into the process for variation of the material or fabric layer(s). This variation can be a benefit both functionally and aesthetically. Such benefits are also realized when using a mold in the form of rollers, as discussed above.
Optionally, other features can be added to the layered material 44 after compression molding, S110. Such features may include coatings such as of latex paint, lacquer or polymeric film. These post-compression molding coatings can be decorative, such as by providing a color or design for the layered material, or can be functional, such as by increasing the abrasion-resistance of the layered material 44 in desired areas. Further such features can be both decorative and protective. Again, these features are preferably strategically placed on layered material 44 so as to provide the desired characteristics, without affecting the overall characteristics of shoe 10, such as breathability or flexibility.
In a preferred embodiment, additional features in the form of a material coating are applied to upper 12 by a process generally known in the art as a “cubic dipping,” “water transfer,” or “transfer printing.” In this process, upper 12 is provided according to an embodiment of the present invention. The desired coating material is applied to a film that is specifically designed for such a process and is known in the art. Preferably, the film may be urethane based. In the example of adding a graphic, image or design to the upper, “artwork” is preprinted or applied to the dipping film. The film is then set on the surface of a water bath and prepped by smoothing film across surface of water. The film or coating material is sprayed with a solvent to activate the release of the ink design from the film. Additionally, upper 12 can be primed to further adhesion between the coating and upper 12. Upper 12 is dipped into the bath, where the film conforms to the shape of the upper due to the pressure from the water. This adheres the coating to upper 12, allowing the coating to adhere to the variant shape of upper 12 with minimal quality or cosmetic issues, such as gaps or wrinkles. The film will preferably break down in the presence of water, leaving the coating applied to upper 12. The coating is then allowed to dry on upper 12. A finishing coating, such as a lacquer to seal and protect design, may also be applied and then upper 12 can be inserted into an oven for drying.
Suitable materials for this coating process include latex paint, lacquer or ink. If ink is used, the process allows for various designs to be printed using the ink onto the film prior to application to upper 12. This allows a specific decorative design to be applied to upper 12. This decorative design can be predetermined or can be supplied by a consumer in the form of a digital image, including a JPEG image. In one embodiment, the consumer can supply the design through a specially-designed, internet-based interface, which allows the user to create custom footwear including an image which the consumer selects or provides. The user can choose from stock images displayed on the interface or may submit the consumer's own image for placement on upper 12. Additionally, the consumer could be allowed to select how the image is applied to upper 12 including image size, color and location on upper 12.
In a preferred embodiment in the present invention a liner (not shown) can be incorporated into the region of blank 70 that forms the collar 36 of the shoe 10 by, for example, stitching. Optionally, the shoe 10 can include a tongue 38 which is preferably stitched onto the end of the eyestay 29 section, extending beneath laces 31 toward collar 36. Alternatively, a gusset may be used in lieu of tongue 38.
As shown in
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the 3-D shoe upper 12 formed in the previous steps, described in relation to
Once the desired shape for the shoe upper 12 is achieved, a sole unit 16 may be attached to the strobel sock 14 at step S120. This may be done by cementing or another appropriate bonding operation, which can include stitching. Sole 16 may be of any configuration, and may include an outsole, midsole and/or other components such as arch support, etc. Additionally, toe cap 34 may be affixed to toe section 20 to cover toe seam 22. In the alternative, sole 16 may extend in a generally upward direction to cover toe seam 22. Optionally, a sock liner (not shown) is inserted into the foot receiving cavity 13.
In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, shoe 10 including upper 12 and at least a portion of outsole 16 can be formed from a unitary piece of layered material 44 including at least one foam layer and at least one material layer 50. In this embodiment, a blank having a medial portion, lateral portion, and a bottom portion may be formed from the layered material in a unitary fashion. The bottom portion can be affixed to either the medial or lateral portion at an area thereof or alternatively may be attached to both portions wherein the bottom portion may be formed with a center seam, This lasting technique is commonly known as center seam slip lasting.
Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.
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|International Classification||A43B23/00, B29D35/14|
|Cooperative Classification||A43B7/085, B32B2266/0207, B32B2307/724, B32B25/045, B32B5/245, B32B25/00, B32B2307/54, B32B2266/0264, B32B5/18, B32B2437/02, B32B2255/102, B32B7/12, B32B2307/738, B32B2266/06, B32B2266/0214, B32B2266/0221, B32B1/00, A43B23/0255, A43B23/022, A43B23/042, B32B5/32, B29D35/142, A43B13/12, A43B23/0235, B29D35/146|
|European Classification||A43B23/02, A43B13/12, B32B5/32, B29D35/14B, B29D35/14D|
|15 May 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: THE TIMBERLAND COMPANY, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:VATTES, DAVID L.;DILLON, PETER;REEL/FRAME:017617/0642
Effective date: 20060505