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Title:
BROADLOOM FABRIC AND METHOD OF FORMING THE SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2003/102298
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A broadloom fabric (10), a broadloom fabric forming apparatus (500) and a method for manufacturing the same are provided. The method includes providing a plurality of fabrics (12, 14, 16) having first and second ends (18, 20) separated by adjoining edges. The adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are aligned in side by side relation with respect to one another and are joined to form the broadloom fabric. The broadloom fabric (10) forming apparatus (500) includes at least one welder or fuser (530) coupled to a frame structure (502) and a fabric feed mechanism (510). The fabric feed mechanism (510) is configured to feed a plurality of fabrics (12, 14, 16) in side by side relation with respect to one another past the at least one welder or fuser (530). The plurality of fabrics (12, 14, 16) have adjoining edges, which are joined together by the at least one welder or fuser (530) at one or more couplings so to form the broadloom fabric (10).

Inventors:
Maguire, Michael (1603 Moss Creek Road, Way Cross, GA, 31501, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2003/016779
Publication Date:
December 11, 2003
Filing Date:
May 30, 2003
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NATIONAL WIRE FABRIC INC. (701 East Arkansas Avenue, Star City, AR, 71667, US)
Maguire, Michael (1603 Moss Creek Road, Way Cross, GA, 31501, US)
International Classes:
D21F1/00; (IPC1-7): D21F1/00
Foreign References:
EP1067238A22001-01-10
EP1045066A22000-10-18
US6162518A2000-12-19
US5713399A1998-02-03
EP0665329A11995-08-02
US20020104631A12002-08-08
US4784190A1988-11-15
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lazar, Dale S. (Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, P.O. Box 10500 McLean, VA, 22102, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A broadloom fabric for use in a manufacturing process, the broadloom fabric comprising: a plurality of fabrics having adjoining edges aligned in side by side relation with respect to one another, the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics being joined together so to form the broadloom fabric.
2. The broadloom fabric of claim 1, wherein the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are welded together.
3. The broadloom fabric of claim 2, wherein the broadloom fabric has a width of at least 120 inches.
4. The broadloom fabric of claim 3, the broadloom fabric has a width ranging between 250350 inches.
5. The broadloom fabric of claim 3, the broadloom fabric has a permeability graduation across the width thereof.
6. The broadloom fabric of claim 1, wherein each fabric of the plurality of fabrics has a width defined between the adjoining edges, the width being at most 120 inches.
7. The broadloom fabric of claim 6, wherein the width of each fabric ranges between 4890 inches.
8. The broadloom fabric of claim 1, wherein each fabric of the plurality of fabrics includes a first plurality of elongated resilient filaments woven into a second plurality of elongated resilient filaments.
9. The broadloom fabric of claim 8, wherein each fabric of the plurality of fabrics includes at least one material selected from fabric, cloth, metal and plastic.
10. The broadloom fabric of claim 8, wherein the first plurality of elongated resilient filaments and the second plurality of elongated resilient filaments includes a coating, wherein the coating is a low friction and contaminant resistant protective coating.
11. A broadloom fabric forming apparatus configured to form a broadloom fabric, the apparatus comprising: a frame structure; at least one welder or fuser coupled to the frame structure; and a fabric feed mechanism configured to feed a plurality of fabrics in side by side relation with respect to one another past the at least one welder or fuser, the plurality of fabrics having adjoining edges, the at least one welder or fuser being constructed and arranged to join the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics together at one or more couplings so to form the broadloom fabric.
12. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a controller coupled to the fabric feed mechanism and the at least one welder or fuser.
13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are joined together in a coupling arrangement selected from a multiplicity of coupling arrangements, the multiplicity of coupling arrangements having different arrangements of the one or more couplings.
14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the controller is configured to control the fabric feed mechanism and the at least one welder or fuser to join the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics together in the selected coupling arrangement.
15. The apparatus of claim 14, further comprising a user interface coupled to the controller, the user interface being configured to accept user input regarding the multiplicity of coupling arrangements.
16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the user input selects the selected coupling arrangement from the multiplicity of coupling arrangements.
17. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising an inspection system configured to inspect the couplings when the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are joined together.
18. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the at least one welder or fuser is movable.
19. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the fabric feed mechanism comprises a feed supply roll having the plurality of fabrics wound thereupon and a gathering roll configured to gather the broadloom fabric after the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are joined together.
20. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising a motor coupled to the gathering roll, the motor being configured to wind the broadloom fabric onto the gathering roll or to unwind the broadloom fabric from the gathering roll.
21. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the one or more couplings are formed into a generally serpentine coupling arrangement.
22. A method of manufacturing a broadloom fabric for use in a manufacturing process, the method comprising: providing a plurality of fabrics having adjoining edges; aligning the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics in side by side relation with respect to one another; and joining the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics to form the broadloom fabric.
23. The method of claim 22, wherein the joining is performed manually with a plasma arc welder to form the broadloom fabric.
24. The method of claim 22, wherein the joining includes joining the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics with a broadloom fabric forming apparatus.
25. The method of claim 24, wherein the broadloom fabric forming apparatus includes at least one welder or fuser coupled to the frame structure; and a fabric feed mechanism configured to feed a plurality of fabrics in side by side relation with respect to one another past the at least one welder or fuser, the plurality of fabrics having adjoining edges, the at least one welder or fuser being constructed and arranged to join the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics together at one or more couplings so to form the broadloom fabric.
26. The method of claim 25, further comprising controlling the fabric feed mechanism and the at least one welder or fuser to join the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics together in a coupling arrangement.
27. The method of claim 26, further comprising selecting the coupling arrangement from a multiplicity of coupling arrangements, the multiplicity of coupling arrangements having different arrangements of the one or more couplings.
28. The method of claim 25, wherein the one or more couplings are formed into a generally serpentine coupling arrangement.
Description:
BROADLOOM FABRIC AND METHOD OF FORMING THE SAME CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION [0001] This application claims the benefit of U. S. Provisional Patent Application No.

60/383, 787,"MAGWIRE,"Maguire, filed May 30,2002, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

1. Field of the Invention [0002] The field of the invention relates to broadloom fabrics and more specifically, to <BR> <BR> broadloom fabrics used in manufacturing processes, e. g. , washing, forming, pressing, curing and drying of various industrial products.

2. Background Information [0003] Generally, broadloom fabrics are used in the preparation of pulp or materials in sheet or non-woven fabric for various industries, such as paper making industries, for example. Such broadloom fabrics provide strength and surface requirements needed by such industrial processes as washing, forming, pressing, curing and drying of various products.

Broadloom fabrics can have widths of 120 inches or more and are typically formed with one- piece continuous fabrics.

[0004] The term"fabric"is used herein to describe all materials including fabric, cloth, metal, plastic and other materials, capable of carrying pulp or industrial materials or products used in manufacturing processes, e. g. , washing, forming, pressing, curing and drying of various industrial products. Fabrics can be wound around a core to form supply rolls constructed and arranged to store the fabrics until the fabrics are used in a manufacturing process.

[0005] Generally, broadloom fabrics are manufactured in various fixed widths, e. g. , 120, 175,250, 300 or 350 inches so that different broadloom fabrics can be used in different manufacturing processes or applications. For example, devices to perform some processes might require a 300 inch broadloom fabric, whereas devices for other processes might require a 200 inch broadloom fabric. Because broadloom fabrics have been typically formed with a one-piece fabric having a fixed width, high inventories of broadloom fabrics having various widths are required to meet expected industrial needs. These high inventories of broadloom fabrics can become obsolete should the need or requirement for those specific widths change.

[0006] Additionally, broadloom fabrics have been difficult to manufacture due to widths thereof being 120 inches or more. As such, production of such broadloom fabrics is generally slow and costly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0007] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, of embodiments of the invention, together with the general description given above and the detailed description of the embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention wherein: [0008] FIG. 1 is an illustrative view of a broadloom fabric including a plurality of narrow fabrics joined together in accordance with principles of the invention; [0009] FIG. 2 is an illustrative view of one narrow fabric of the plurality of narrow fabrics shown in FIG. 1; [0010] FIG. 3 is an exaggerated view of the plurality of narrow fabrics joined together with a first coupling arrangement; [0011] FIG. 4 is an exaggerated view of another broadloom fabric including another plurality of narrow fabrics joined together with the first coupling arrangement shown in FIG.

3; [0012] FIG. 5 is an exaggerated view of another broadloom fabric including the plurality of narrow fabrics shown in FIG. 3 joined together with a second coupling arrangement; [0013] FIG. 6 is an exaggerated view of another broadloom fabric including the plurality of narrow fabrics shown in FIG. 3 joined together with a third coupling arrangement; [0014] FIG. 7 is an exaggerated view of another broadloom fabric including the plurality of narrow fabrics shown in FIG. 3 joined together with a fourth coupling arrangement; [0015] FIG. 8 is a schematic view of a broadloom fabric forming apparatus in accordance to principles of the invention; [0016] FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing the broadloom fabric forming apparatus of FIG. 8 in greater detail; [0017] FIG. 10 is a flow chart illustrating a method in accordance with the principles of the invention; [0018] FIG. 11 is a flow chart illustrating portions of the method shown in FIG. 10 in greater detail; and [0019] FIG. 12 illustrating portions of the method shown in FIGS. 10 and 11 in greater detail.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION [0020] FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of a broadloom fabric, generally indicated at 10, for use in various industrial processes, e. g. , washing, forming, pressing, curing and drying various products, such as paper, board or other industrial products. The broadloom fabric 10 is formed from a plurality of narrow fabrics, generally indicated as 12,14 and 16, arranged in side by side relation. The term narrow is used herein to describe fabrics having widths up to 120 inches. Each fabric 12,14, 16 has first and second ends separated by adjoining edges 18, 20. Adjacent fabrics 12,14 and fabrics 14,16 are joined at the adjoining edges 18,20 thereof by couplings 22, which will be described in greater detail below, to form the broadloom fabric 10.

[0021] Depending on the number and widths of fabrics 12,14, 16, the broadloom fabric 10 can have widths of 120 inches or more. In some applications, the broadloom fabric 10 can have widths of at least 300 inches, which can include five 60 inch wide fabrics similar to any one of fabrics 12,14 or 16, for example.

[0022] FIG. 2 shows narrow fabric 12 in greater detail, but is representative of each fabric 12,14 and 16 because each fabric 12,14 and 16 includes elongated filaments 24,26 described below with respect to fabric 12. Fabric 12 can include a first plurality of elongated resilient filaments 24 oriented in a first direction. The first direction can be referred to as a machine direction and each elongated resilient filament 24 can be referred to as a warp filament, for example. Fabric 12 can also include a second plurality of elongated resilient filaments 26 oriented in a second direction transverse to the first direction. The second direction can be referred to as a cross machine direction which defines the width of the fabric 12 and each elongated resilient filament 26 can be referred to as a shute or weft filament, for example. Narrow fabrics 12,14 and 16 can each have a width of 10 to 120 inches, for example, but generally have a width ranging from 48-90 inches.

[0023] The individual filaments 24,26 can be woven together, for example, using a weaving apparatus, or may be woven manually, to form the fabrics 12,14 and 16.

Alternatively, a single beam loom or a double beam loom can be used depending on the weave pattern of the narrow fabrics 12,14 and 16. Typically, high speed looms about 50-100 inches wide can be used to manufacture the fabrics 12,14 and 16.

[0024] Each filament 24,26 can be coated, for example, to reduce corrosion and/or abrasion, through a coating process. The coating may be a low friction and contaminant resistant protective coating, for example, and may include brass or some other hardening (corrosion and abrasion resistant) material. The low friction and contaminant resistant protective coating can be applied by conventional coating techniques, such as dipping or continuously running the filaments through a bath, such as electrode plating, for example.

Alternatively, a batch dipping can be used.

[0025] As shown in FIG. 3, the shute or weft filaments 26 at edge 20 of fabric 12 can be joined, e. g. , through couplings 22 to the shute or weft filaments 26 at edge 18 of fabric 14.

Similarly, the shute or weft filaments 26 at edge 20 of fabric 14 can be joined through couplings 22 to the shute or weft filaments 26 at edge 18 of fabric 16. Couplings 22 can include weaving, welding or brazing the shute or weft filaments 26 of adjacent fabrics 12,14, 16 together, for example. In FIG. 3, the couplings 22 generally extend in the machine direction or length of the broadloom fabric 10.

[0026] The couplings 22 of the broadloom fabric 10 can be formed and arranged, in different patterns, for example, as shown in FIGS. 4-7. The couplings 22 can be manually formed through use of a welder or fuser, such as a plasma arc welder, for example. One suitable welder or fuser is manufactured by Linde under model number PWM-6 Plasma Needle Arc Welding Outfit (P/N 600103). Alternatively, the couplings 22 can be mechanically formed and arranged through use of a broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, which will be described in greater detail below.

[0027] FIG. 4 shows a broadloom fabric 110 in accordance with principles of the invention. The broadloom fabric 110 includes a plurality of narrow fabrics 112,114 and 116 joined together by couplings 22 arranged in the first coupling arrangement as described above with respect to FIG. 3. The broadloom fabric 110 has a permeability gradation across its width due to the fabrics 112,114 and 116 having a different density of warp filaments 24.

For example, fabric 112 includes less warp filaments 24 than fabric 114, which in turn, includes less warp filaments 24 than fabric 116. Thus, fabric 114 is more permeable than fabric 116, but less permeable than fabric 112. In this manner, the broadloom fabric 110 can have different permeability at different portions thereof.

[0028] Fabrics 112,114 and 116 can have more or less warp filaments 24 than above- described fabrics 12,14 and 16. Any combination of fabrics 12,14, 16,112, 114,116 or any other type of processing fabric could be used to form either broadloom fabric 10 or broadloom fabric 110.

[0029] FIG. 5 shows a broadloom fabric 210 in accordance with principles of the invention. The broadloom fabric 210 includes a plurality of the narrow fabrics 12,14 and 16 joined together by couplings 22 arranged in a second coupling arrangement, which is arranged to increase strength of the fabric 210 and to distribute stresses over a greater area of the fabric 210. By distributing stresses over a greater area of the fabric 210, the risk of local failure of those portions of the fabric 210 is reduced.

[0030] As illustrated, the second coupling arrangement includes couplings 22 positioned on opposite sides of at least one warp filament 24 of fabrics 14,16. A series of couplings 22 are disposed between respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 12,14 and between respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 14,16. To distribute stress, another series of couplings 22 are disposed between the edge 20 of fabric 12 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 14 and between the edge 20 of fabric 14 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 16. In this manner, the second coupling arrangement increases strength of the fabric 210 and distributes stresses over a greater area of the fabric 210.

[0031] FIG. 6 shows a broadloom fabric 310 in accordance with principles of the invention. The broadloom fabric 310 includes a plurality of the narrow fabrics 12,14 and 16 joined together by couplings 22 arranged in a third coupling arrangement, which is arranged to increase strength of the fabric 310 and to distribute stresses over a greater area of the fabric 310. By distributing stresses over a greater area of the fabric 310, the risk of local failure of those portions of the fabric 310 is reduced.

[0032] As illustrated, the third coupling arrangement includes couplings 22 positioned on opposite sides of at least one warp filament 24 of fabrics 12,14. A series of couplings 22 are disposed between respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 12,14 and between respective edges 18, 20 of fabrics 14,16. To distribute stress, another series of couplings 22 are disposed between the edge 18 of fabric 14 and different warp filaments 24 of fabric 12 and between the edge 18 of fabric 16 and different warp filaments 24 of fabric 14. The couplings 22 are disposed between different warp filaments 24 of fabrics 12,14 so as to increase strength of the fabric 310 and to distribute stresses over a greater area of the fabric 310.

[0033] FIG. 7 shows a broadloom fabric 410 in accordance with principles of the invention. The broadloom fabric 410 includes a plurality of the narrow fabrics 12,14 and 16 joined together by couplings 22 arranged in a fourth coupling arrangement, which is arranged to increase strength of the fabric 410 and to distribute stresses over a greater area of the fabric 410. By distributing stresses over a greater area of the fabric 410, the risk of local failure of those portions of the fabric 410 is reduced.

[0034] As illustrated, the fourth coupling arrangement includes couplings 22 positioned on opposite sides of at least one warp filament 24 of fabrics 12,14 and 16. A series of couplings 22 are disposed between respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 12,14 and between respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 14,16. To distribute stress, one series of couplings 22 are disposed between the edge 20 of fabric 12 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 14, between the edge 18 of fabric 14 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 12, between the edge 20 of fabric 14 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 16 and between the edge 18 of fabric 16 and at least one warp filament 24 of fabric 14. The couplings 22 are disposed between warp filaments 24 of fabrics 12,14 and 16 so as to increase strength of the fabric 410 and to distribute stresses over a greater area of the fabric 410.

[0035] FIGS. 5-7 show couplings 22 of fabrics 210, 310 and 410 arranged in different coupling arrangements, with each coupling arrangement having a generally serpentine pattern.

[0036] FIGS. 8 and 9 show a broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 in accordance with principles of the invention. The broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 includes frame structure 502 and fabric support structure 504 (FIG. 9). The broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 also includes a fabric feed mechanism, generally indicated at 510, configured to feed narrow fabrics 12,14, 16 in substantially spaced relation to a top surface 506 of the fabric support structure 504 from a supply roll 512 to a gathering roll 516, where the broadloom fabric is gathered.

[0037] As the narrow fabrics 12,14, 16 are fed from the supply roll 512 to a gathering roll 516 in side by side relation, respective edges 18,20 pass beneath at least one welder or fuser 530 (since edge 18 of fabric 12 and edge 20 of fabric 16 are the outermost edges in this embodiment, these edges do not pass underneath a welder or fuser 530). Each welder or <BR> <BR> fuser 530 is movably mounted to the frame structure 502, e. g. , by a rack and pinion gear, a slidable mounting such as a carriage assembly with wheels and a guide track, a lead screw arrangement or other mounting structure, for example. Each welder or fuser 530 can be movable in the cross machine direction (across the width of narrow belts 12,14, 16). FIG. 9 shows two welders or fusers 530 movably mounted to the frame structure, but more or less welders or fusers 530 could be used.

[0038] The fabric feed mechanism 510 includes the supply roll 512 including rolls of fabrics 12,14 and 16 rotatably mounted to base structure 518,520. Alternatively, individual supply rolls could include respective separate rolls of fabrics 12,14 and 16 rotatably mounted to corresponding base structures. An opening 522 is formed in each base structure 518, 520 (not shown in FIG. 9 for base structure 518), which is configured to receive a pin 524 extending through a core 526 the supply roll 512 to rotatably mount the supply roll 512 between the base structure 518,520. The base structure 518,520 can also used to rotatably mount the gathering roll 516 in a substantially identical manner as the supply roll 512 is rotatably mounted.

[0039] As shown in FIG. 9, the gathering roll 516 can include fabric grippers 528 corresponding in number to the number of fabrics on supply roll 512. The fabric grippers 528 can have clamp structure (not shown) associated therewith to grip ends of respective narrow fabrics 12,14, 16 supplied from the supply roll 512. The grippers 528 (or clamp structure) can be manually attached to the fabrics 12,14, 16, for example. The gathering roll 516 can be manually or electrically actuated, e. g. a motor (not shown) could be electrically coupled to the gathering roll 516, to wind and unwind the broadloom fabric from the gathering roll 516.

[0040] Winding of the gathering roll 516 can cause unwinding of the fabrics 12,14, 16 from the supply roll 512. As the fabrics 12,14, 16 are unwound from the supply roll 512, the fabrics 12,14, 16 are fed beneath each welder or fuser 530, at which one or more couplings 22 are welded or fused in accordance with the principles of the above-described coupling arrangements shown in FIGS. 3 and 5-7.

[0041] A controller 538 and a user interface 540 (FIG. 8) can be coupled to the fabric feed mechanism 510 and to each welder or fuser 530. The controller 538 can be configured to control the fabric feed mechanism 510 and each welder or fuser 530 so that desired coupling arrangements are effected. It should be appreciated that the controller 430 may be implemented with the processor 538, for example, in a central processing unit or in a general purpose computer, or other similar device.

[0042] A user could use the user interface 540 to select the second coupling arrangement shown in FIG. 5. Based on information received from the user interface 540, the controller 538 could control the fabric feed mechanism 510 and each welder or fuser 530 to effect the desired coupling arrangement. Such control by the controller 538 can include adjusting a feed speed of the supply roll 512 by adjusting speeding up or slowing down the speed at which the gathering roll 516 is rotated. Another example of such control by the controller 538 is individual or collective movement of the welders or fusers 530. Based on the feed speed of the supply roll 512 or the widths of the narrow fabrics on the supply roll 512, it may be necessary for the controller 538 to control movement of the welders or fusers 530 in the cross machine direction to effect the desired coupling arrangement.

[0043] In an alternative embodiment (not shown), the welders or fusers 530 could be fixedly secured to the frame structure 502 of the broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500. In such embodiments, the controller 538 could be configured through software or hardware to operate the welders or fusers 530, either individually or collectively, at different times to effect the desired coupling arrangement.

[0044] An inspection system 542, such as an optical inspection system, for example, can also be coupled to and controlled by the controller 538 to ensure that respective edges 18,20 of fabrics 12,14, 16 are sufficiently aligned in side by side relation prior to being welded or fused together by the welders or fusers 530. Alternatively, or in addition, the inspection system 542 (or an additional inspection system) could be configured to inspect the couplings 22, the coupling arrangement or the quality of the couplings 22, for example, after welding or fusing. Based on the inspection data from the inspection system 542, the broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 could be stopped to correct alignment of the fabric edges or to re-weld or re-fuse the fabric edges where needed, for example.

[0045] FIG. 10 shows a flow chart illustrating a method of manufacturing a broadloom fabric for use in a manufacturing process, such as washing, forming, pressing, curing and drying of various industrial products, for example. The method starts at 600. At 602, a plurality of fabrics having first and second ends separated by adjoining edges are provided.

[0046] At 604, the adjoining edges of the plurality of fabrics are aligned in side by side relation and joined to form a broadloom fabric at 606. The aligning and joining can be manually performed or can be performed using a broadloom fabric forming apparatus, such as apparatus 500 shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, for example. FIG. 11 shows a flow chart illustrating a portion of block 606 in greater detail. At 608 in FIG. 11, a determination is made whether or not the joining will be a manual operation. A similar determination could be made about the alignment of block 604 as well. If the joining is to be performed manually, a user with a manually engageable welder, e. g. , a plasma arc welder, can manually weld or fuse the adjoining edges of the aligned fabrics. If the joining is not to be performed manually, the plurality of fabrics are aligned when positioned in a broadloom fabric forming apparatus and joined together when fed through the welding or fusing section of the broadloom fabric forming apparatus.

[0047] FIG. 12 shows a flow chart illustrating a method of operation of a broadloom fabric forming apparatus, such as the broadloom fabric forming apparatus 500 shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, for example. Operation of the broadloom fabric forming apparatus commences at 614 when a plurality of fabrics are fed into the broadloom fabric forming apparatus by a fabric feed mechanism so that adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are aligned. The fabric feed mechanism can include structure to align the edges of adjacent fabrics in side by side relation, for example.

[0048] At 616, a determination is made whether the broadloom fabric forming apparatus is programmable or controllable to select between different coupling arrangements. For example, any one of the coupling arrangements shown in FIGS. 3-7 could be selected in such a broadloom fabric forming apparatus. If the broadloom fabric forming apparatus is not programmable or controllable to select between different coupling arrangements, the adjoining edges of the adjacent fabrics can be joined using any one of the coupling arrangements shown in FIGS. 3-7, depending on the positioning of welders or fusers in the broadloom fabric forming apparatus, for example. If the broadloom fabric forming apparatus is programmable or controllable to select between different coupling arrangements, the adjoining edges of the adjacent fabrics can be joined using any one of the coupling arrangements shown in FIGS. 3-7. At 620, a coupling arrangement is selected based on user input inputted through a user input coupled to the broadloom fabric forming apparatus, for example. At 622 and 624, a fabric feed mechanism and at least one welder or fuser are controlled to join the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics in accordance with the selected coupling arrangement, respectively. At 626, the adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics are joined in accordance with the selected coupling arrangement, for example, by the at least one welder or fuser. The welder or fuser can be movable along with width of the adjacent fabrics to effect the selected coupling arrangement. Alternatively, the at least one welder or fuser can be fixedly positioned with respect to the adjacent fabrics and can be controlled to effect the selected coupling arrangement, for example, by welding or fusing adjoining edges of adjacent fabrics as the fabrics are fed through the broadloom fabric forming apparatus. For example, the at least one welder or fuser can be controlled between operative and inoperative states at different times to effect the selected coupling arrangement.

[0049] While the present invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

[0050] Thus, the foregoing embodiments have been shown and described for the purpose of illustrating the functional and structural principles of this invention and are subject to change without departure from such principles. Therefore, this invention includes all modifications encompassed within the spirit and scope of the following claims.