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Title:
LAMINATED SURFACE COVERINGS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/004614
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Described herein are floor panels comprising: a plurality of vinyl layers; a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge; a length measured from the first edge to the second edge; a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width; a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability. Methods of making and systems using these floor panels are also described.

Inventors:
ESHBACH, John R. (160 Daplin Avenue, Marietta, Pennsylvania, 17547, US)
STOLL, Brent L. (526 Wagonwheel Road, Lititz, Pennsylvania, 17543, US)
ANSPACH, Kean M. (294 Stoney Hill Road, Quarryville, Pennsylvania, 17566, US)
Application Number:
US2016/040942
Publication Date:
January 05, 2017
Filing Date:
July 05, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
AFI LICENSING LLC (2500 Columbia Avenue, P.O. Box 3025Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 17604, US)
International Classes:
B32B7/02; B32B27/08; B32B27/30; B32B38/00
Domestic Patent References:
2008-04-10
2014-07-31
Foreign References:
US20070275169A12007-11-29
US20050144898A12005-07-07
US20140020820A12014-01-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GEERLOF, Christina W. (AFI LICENSING LLC, 2500 Columbia AvenueP.O. Box 302, Lancaster Pennsylvania, 17604, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A floor panel comprising:

a plurality of vinyl layers;

a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge;

a length measured from the first edge to the second edge;

a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width;

a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability.

2. The floor panel according to claim 1, wherein a ratio of the length to the width is greater than or equal to 1.5: 1.

3. The floor panel according to any one claims 1 to 2, wherein the width of said floor panel is from about 7.5 cm to about 35 cm.

4. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the length of said floor panel is from about 90 cm to about 325 cm.

5. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the thickness of said floor panel is from about 0.2 cm to about 1 cm.

6. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the plurality of layers are laminated together to form a layered composite.

7. The floor panel according to claim 6, wherein the plurality of layers are laminated together to form the layered composite in a continuous process having a machine direction and an across-machine direction; and wherein the width extends in the machine direction and the length extends in the across -machine direction.

8. The floor panel according to claim 6 or claim 7, wherein the layered composite comprises a top surface and a bottom surface, the top surface or the bottom surface comprising colored striations extending in the width direction.

9. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 8, wherein the plurality of vinyl layers comprises a core comprising a top base vinyl layer and a bottom base vinyl layer.

10. The floor panel according to claim 9, wherein the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer have different compositions.

11. The floor panel according to claim 9 or claim 10, wherein the core further comprises a glass scrim.

12. The floor panel according to claim 11, wherein the glass scrim is located between the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer.

13. The floor panel according to any one of claims 9 to 12, wherein the plurality of layers further comprises a rigid vinyl wear layer that forms an uppermost surface of the floor panel.

14. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 13, wherein the first edge comprises a first mechanical locking profile, the second edge comprises a second mechanical locking profile, the third edge comprises a third mechanical locking profile, and the fourth edge comprises a fourth mechanical locking profile; wherein the first and second mechanical locking profiles are configured to provide horizontal and vertical locking when coupled together; and wherein the third and fourth mechanical locking profiles are configured to provide horizontal and vertical locking when coupled together.

15. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein the first dimensional stability is at least two times greater than the second dimensional stability.

16. The floor panel according to any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the first dimensional stability is a first resistant to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

17. A flooring system comprising:

a plurality of floor panels, each of the plurality of floor panels comprising:

a plurality of vinyl layers;

a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge;

a length measured from the first edge to the second edge;

a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width;

a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and

a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability; and

wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in a pattern such that the length direction of the plurality of floor panels extend substantially parallel to one another.

18. The flooring system according to claim 17, wherein for each of the plurality of floor panels,

the first edge comprises a first mechanical locking profile;

the second edge comprises a second mechanical locking profile;

the third edge comprises a third mechanical locking profile; and the fourth edge comprises a fourth mechanical locking profile; wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in the pattern such that the first and second mechanical locking profiles of longitudinally adjacent ones of the plurality of floor panels mechanically mate with one another to provide horizontal and vertical locking; and

wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in the pattern such that the third and fourth mechanical locking profiles of transversely adjacent ones of the plurality of floor panels mechanically mate with one another to provide horizontal and vertical locking.

19. The flooring system according to claim 17 or claim 18, wherein for each of the plurality of floor panels, the first dimensional stability is a first resistant to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

20. A method of forming a multi-layer floor panel comprising:

a) providing a top base vinyl layer and a bottom base vinyl layer; b) feeding the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer into a roller assembly in a machine direction;

c) laminating said top base vinyl layer and said bottom base vinyl layer together with the roller assembly to form a layered composite sheet, the layered composite sheet exiting the roller assembly in the machine direction; and

d) cutting the layered composite sheet in an across-machine direction to form a floor panel, the floor panel having a length in the across-machine direction and a width in the machine direction, the length being greater than the width.

21. The method according to claim 20, wherein the floor panel has a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, and wherein the first dimensional stability is greater than the second dimensional stability.

22. The method according to claim 21, wherein the first dimensional stability is a first resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

23. The method according to any one of claims 20 to 22, wherein steps a) to d) are performed as part of a continuous process.

24. The method according to any one of claims 20 to 23, wherein the top base vinyl layer has a first thickness in step a) and the bottom base vinyl layer has a second thickness in step a), and wherein the top base vinyl layer has a third thickness subsequent to step c) and the bottom base vinyl layer has a fourth thickness subsequent to step c), and wherein the first thickness is greater than the third thickness and the second thickness is greater than the fourth thickness.

25. The method according to any one of claims 20 to 24, wherein step d) further comprises repetitively cutting the layered composite sheet, with a cutting apparatus, in the across- machine direction to form a plurality of the floor panels, wherein the layered composite sheet is continuously fed into the cutting apparatus.

26. The method according to any one of claims 20 to 25, wherein the layered composite sheet comprises a width measured in the across -machine direction upon exiting the roller assembly, and wherein the length of the floor panel is substantially the same as the width of the layered composite sheet.

28. The method according to any one of claims 20 to 27, wherein an annealing step is not performed prior to step d).

Description:
LAMINATED SURFACE COVERINGS

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/187,925, filed on July 2, 2015. The disclosure of the above application is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0002] The present invention generally relates to laminated vinyl flooring panels which demonstrate unexpected dimensional stability.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Vinyl based flooring products having plasticized vinyl wear layers have generally been manufactured using discontinuous stack press processes or continuous processes in which the planks are cut in the machine direction. Discontinuous processes are inefficient and continuous processes wherein planks are cut in the machine direction can result in products that do not have adequate dimensional stability; or require heat relaxation (annealing) prior to final cutting in order to provide adequate dimensional stability.

[0004] While dimensional stability can be measured in a variety of ways, the dimensional stability of vinyl based flooring products is sometimes measured by the extent to which a dimension shrinks relative to the entire length of that particular dimension. Dimensional stability issues often present as gaps between adjacent planks in a flooring system. These gaps are particularly pronounced when they occur in the length direction, because shrinkage along the length is visible in a single gap; and because the length is longer than the width, a single gap can become quite large over time.

[0005] Thus, there remains a need for vinyl based flooring products that resist the aforementioned dimensional stability issues; and efficient processes for manufacturing same. Embodiments of the present invention are designed to meet these needs.

SUMMARY

[0006] In some embodiments, the present invention provides a floor panel comprising: a plurality of vinyl layers; a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge; a length measured from the first edge to the second edge; a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width; a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability.

[0007] In other embodiments, the present invention provides a flooring system comprising: a plurality of floor panels, each of the plurality of floor panels comprising: a plurality of vinyl layers; a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge; a length measured from the first edge to the second edge; a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width; a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability; and wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in a pattern such that the length direction of the plurality of floor panels extend substantially parallel to one another.

[0008] Still further embodiments provide a method of forming a multi-layer floor panel comprising: a) providing a top base vinyl layer and a bottom base vinyl layer; b) feeding the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer into a roller assembly in a machine direction; c) laminating said top base layer and said bottom base layer together with the roller assembly to form a layered composite sheet, the layered composite sheet exiting the roller assembly in the machine direction; and d) cutting the layered composite sheet in an across -machine direction to form a floor panel, the floor panel having a length in the across-machine direction and a width in the machine direction, the length being greater than the width.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] FIG. 1 depicts a side elevation schematic diagram of an exemplary laminating system used to perform exemplary methods of the present invention; and

[00010] FIG. 2 is a top plan view of exemplary multi-layer floor panels of the present invention showing the fabrication process material flow (machine direction) and across machine direction.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION [00011] The features and benefits of the invention are illustrated and described herein by reference to non-limiting exemplary embodiments. This description of exemplary embodiments is intended to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are to be considered part of the entire written description. Accordingly, the disclosure expressly should not be limited to such exemplary embodiments illustrating some possible non-limiting combination of features that may exist alone or in other combinations of features.

[00012] In the description of embodiments disclosed herein, any reference to direction or orientation is merely intended for convenience of description and is not intended in any way to limit the scope of the present invention. Relative terms such as "lower," "upper," "horizontal," "vertical,", "above," "below," "up," "down," "top" and "bottom" as well as derivative thereof (e.g., "horizontally," "downwardly," "upwardly," etc.) should be construed to refer to the orientation as then described or as shown in the drawing under discussion. These relative terms are for convenience of description only and do not require that the apparatus be constructed or operated in a particular orientation. Terms such as "attached," "affixed," "connected," "coupled," "interconnected," and similar refer to a relationship wherein structures are secured or attached to one another either directly or indirectly through intervening structures, as well as both movable or rigid attachments or relationships, unless expressly described otherwise. According to the present invention, the term "about" means +/- 5%.

[00013] In some embodiments, the present invention provides a floor panel comprising: a plurality of vinyl layers; a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge; a length measured from the first edge to the second edge; a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width; a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability.

[00014] In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 25: 1 to about 1.25: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 20: 1 to about 1.5: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 15: 1 to about 2: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 10: 1 to about 3: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 8: 1 to about 4: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is from about 7: 1 to about 5: 1. In some embodiments, the ratio of the length to the width is about 6: 1. In some embodiments, the present invention provides a floor panel wherein a ratio of the length to the width is greater than or equal to 1.5: 1.

[00015] In some embodiments, the width of said floor panel is from about 7.5 cm to about 35 cm. In some embodiments, the width of said floor panel is from about 10 cm to about 30 cm. In some embodiments, the width of said floor panel is from about 12.5 cm to about 25 cm. In some embodiments, the width of said floor panel is from about 15 cm to about 22.5 cm. In some embodiments, the width of said floor panel is about 15 cm.

[00016] In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 75 cm to about 325 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 80 cm to about 300 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 85 cm to about 250 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 90 cm to about 200 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 100 cm to about 150 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is from about 105 cm to about 125 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is about 90 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is about 122 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is about 152 cm. In some embodiments, the length of said floor panel is about 182 cm.

[00017] In some embodiments, the thickness of said floor panel is from about 0.2 cm to about 1 cm. In some embodiments, the thickness of said floor panel is from about 0.3 cm to about 0.9 cm. In some embodiments, the thickness of said floor panel is from about 0.4 cm to about 0.8 cm. In some embodiments, the thickness of said floor panel is about 0.3 cm.

[00018] In some embodiments, the plurality of vinyl layers are laminated together to form a layered composite. In some embodiments, the layered composite comprises a core comprising a top base vinyl layer and a bottom base vinyl layer. Each of the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer may comprise binder and plasticizer. Non-limiting examples of binder include vinyl polymer - such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In some non-limiting embodiments, the plasticizer may be a phthalate plasticizer, a non-phthalate plasticizer, or a combination thereof. In some embodiments, each of the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer may further comprise filler. In some embodiments, the filler may comprise limestone (calcium carbonate). [00019] In further embodiments, the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer have substantially similar compositions. In other embodiments, the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer have different compositions. The top base vinyl layer may comprise about 20 wt. % to about 40 wt. % of binder based on the total weight of the top base vinyl layer - including all integers and sub-ranges there between. The bottom base vinyl layer may comprise about 20 wt. % to about 40 wt. % of binder based on the total weight of the bottom base vinyl layer - including all integers and sub-ranges there between. In some embodiments, the top base vinyl layer has a thickness of about 30 mils to 50 mils. In one non-limiting example, the top base vinyl layer has thickness of about 40 mils. In some embodiments, the bottom base vinyl layer has a thickness of about 50 mils to 70 mils. In one non-limiting example, the bottom base vinyl layer has thickness of about 60 mils.

[00020] In some embodiments, the top base vinyl layer and bottom base vinyl layer are laminated together without any intervening layers. In some embodiments, the core comprises a scrim layer. In some embodiments the scrim may be non-woven scrim. In some embodiments the core may be a glass scrim. The scrim may have a thickness ranging from about 1 mil to 5 mils. In some embodiments, the scrim has a thickness of about 2 mils. The scrim layer may be sandwiched between the top base vinyl layer and bottom base vinyl layer. Still further embodiments provide a plastisol saturated glass scrim layer sandwiched between the top base vinyl layer and bottom base vinyl layer. The plastisol may comprise a suspension of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) particles in plasticizer.

[00021] In some embodiments, the plurality of layers further comprises a rigid vinyl wear layer that forms an uppermost surface of the floor panel. In some embodiments, the rigid vinyl wear layer may have a thickness ranging from about 5 to about 35 mils - including all integers and sub-ranges there between. According to some embodiments, the rigid vinyl wear layer has a thickness ranging from about 10 to about 30 mils. In some embodiments, the rigid vinyl wear layer has a thickness of about 20 mils. In a non-limiting example, the rigid vinyl wear layer is applied to a top surface of the core.

[00022] In some embodiments, the plurality of layers further comprises a decorative layer that may comprise an ink layer. In some embodiments, the decorative layer may comprise an ink layer and a rigid or semi-rigid vinyl print film having a thickness ranging from about 2 mils to about 5 mils - including all integers and sub-ranges there between. In some embodiments, the rigid or semi-rigid vinyl print film has a thickness of about 3 mils. In some embodiments, the decorative layer is positioned between the rigid vinyl wear layer vinyl wear and the core, wherein the ink layer is adjacent to the rigid vinyl wear layer and the decorative layer is adjacent to the core.

[00023] In some embodiments, the plurality of layers are laminated together to form the layered composite in a continuous process having a machine direction and an across -machine direction; wherein the width extends in the machine direction and the length extends in the across-machine direction.

[00024] In some embodiments, the layered composite comprises a top surface and a bottom surface, the top surface or the bottom surface comprising colored striations extending in the width direction.

[00025] Still further embodiments provide a floor panel wherein the first edge comprises a first mechanical locking profile, the second edge comprises a second mechanical locking profile, the third edge comprises a third mechanical locking profile, and the fourth edge comprises a fourth mechanical locking profile; wherein the first and second mechanical locking profiles are configured to provide horizontal and vertical locking when coupled together; and wherein the third and fourth mechanical locking profiles are configured to provide horizontal and vertical locking when coupled together.

[00026] In some embodiments, the first dimensional stability is at least two times greater than the second dimensional stability.

[00027] In some embodiments, dimensional stability is evaluated by resistance to shrinkage. As used herein, "shrinkage" means the extent to which a dimension contracts relative to the entire span of that particular dimension, which may be considered a rate of shrinkage in certain embodiments.

[00028] Without intending to be bound by theory, the present inventors have discovered that the processes used to manufacture vinyl based surface coverings result in products having different stress-strain characteristics in the machine direction and across machine direction. In some embodiments, during the lamination process, the sheet is pressed between rollers which results in elongation (and thinning) of the laminate sheet in the machine direction, with minimal elongation in the across machine direction. In other embodiments, the stress/strain characteristics of the sheet are permanently altered in the machine direction. While these differences may go unnoticed in certain installations or under certain conditions, they are critical in flooring systems which are exposed to varying environmental conditions.

[00029] In some embodiments, the first dimensional stability is a first resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

[00030] Some embodiments provide a flooring system comprising: a plurality of floor panels, each of the plurality of floor panels comprising: a plurality of vinyl layers; a first edge, a second edge opposite the first edge, a third edge, and a fourth edge opposite the third edge; a length measured from the first edge to the second edge; a width measured from the third edge to the fourth edge, the length being greater than the width; a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel; and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, the first dimensional stability being greater than the second dimensional stability; and wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in a pattern such that the length direction of the plurality of floor panels extend substantially parallel to one another.

[00031] Other embodiments provide a flooring system wherein each of the plurality of floor panels further comprises: a first edge comprising a first mechanical locking profile; a second edge comprising a second mechanical locking profile; a third edge comprising a third mechanical locking profile; and a fourth edge comprising a fourth mechanical locking profile; wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in the pattern such that the first and second mechanical locking profiles of longitudinally adjacent ones of the plurality of floor panels mechanically mate with one another to provide horizontal and vertical locking; and wherein the plurality of floor panels are arranged in the pattern such that the third and fourth mechanical locking profiles of transversely adjacent ones of the plurality of floor panels mechanically mate with one another to provide horizontal and vertical locking.

[00032] Still further embodiments provide a flooring system wherein for each of the plurality of floor panels, the first dimensional stability is a first resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

[00033] Other embodiments provide a method of forming a multi-layer floor panel comprising: a) providing a top base vinyl layer and a bottom base vinyl layer; b) feeding the top base vinyl layer and the bottom base vinyl layer into a roller assembly in a machine direction; c) laminating said top base layer and said bottom base layer together with the roller assembly to form a layered composite sheet, the layered composite sheet exiting the roller assembly in the machine direction; and d) cutting the layered composite sheet in an across -machine direction to form a floor panel, the floor panel having a length in the across -machine direction and a width in the machine direction, the length being greater than the width.

[00034] In some embodiments, the floor panel has a first dimensional stability in the length direction of the floor panel and a second dimensional stability in the width direction of the floor panel, wherein the first dimensional stability is greater than the second dimensional stability. In some embodiments, the first dimensional stability is a first resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the length direction and the second dimensional stability is a second resistance to shrinkage of the floor panel in the width direction.

[00035] In some embodiments, steps a) to d) are performed as part of a continuous process.

[00036] In some embodiments, the top base vinyl layer has a first thickness in step a) and the bottom base vinyl layer has a second thickness in step a), wherein the top base vinyl layer has a third thickness subsequent to step c) and the bottom base vinyl layer has a fourth thickness subsequent to step c), and wherein the first thickness is greater than the third thickness and the second thickness is greater than the fourth thickness.

[00037] In some embodiments, step d) comprises repetitively cutting the layered composite sheet, with a cutting apparatus, in the across-machine direction to form a plurality of the floor panels, wherein the layered composite sheet is continuously fed into the cutting apparatus.

[00038] In other embodiments, the layered composite sheet comprises a width measured in the across-machine direction upon exiting the roller assembly, and wherein the length of the floor panel is substantially the same as the width of the layered composite sheet.

[00039] In further embodiments, an annealing step is not performed prior to step d). In further embodiments, an annealing step is not required at all.

[00040] Referring to FIG. 1, laminating system 100 comprises a conveyor type laminating system comprising a roller assembly. In some embodiments, the roller assembly comprises a plurality of belts 160a, 160b, 160c, 160d; and a plurality of belt rollers 111, 112, 113, 121, 122, 123, 131, 132, 133. In some embodiments, belt rollers 122, 123, 132, 133 provide a laminating function. In some embodiments, laminating system 100 further comprises first hopper 110, second hopper 120 and third hopper 130. [00041] In some embodiments, first hopper 110 contains a first granulate 114. In some embodiments, first granulate 114 comprises the components which form the bottom base vinyl layer 115. In some embodiments, first hopper 110 feeds first granulate 114 to belt rollers 111, 112, 113 which deliver first granulate 114 to conveyor belt 160a. In some embodiments belt rollers 111, 112, 113 are heated to such temperature that first granulate 114 melts to an extent sufficient to weaken it to a mass which can be shaped into a solid continuous sheet, e.g. bottom base vinyl layer 115. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, the heating temperature will depend on the components used in first granulate 114.

[00042] In some embodiments, bottom base vinyl layer 115 comprises a vinyl chloride polymer (e.g. a PVC homopolymer) and filler. In some embodiments, bottom base vinyl layer 115 further comprises a plasticizer. In some embodiments, bottom base vinyl layer 115 further comprises a stabilizer. In some embodiments, the stabilizer is a PVC stabilizer.

[00043] In some embodiments, second hopper 120 contains a second granulate 124. In some embodiments, second granulate 124 comprises the components which form the top base vinyl layer 125. In some embodiments, second hopper 120 feeds second granulate 124 to belt rollers 121, 122, 123. In some embodiments, belt rollers 121, 122, 123 are heated to such temperature that second granulate 124 melts to an extent sufficient to weaken it to a mass which can be shaped into a solid continuous sheet, e.g. top base vinyl layer 125. In some embodiments, belt rollers 122, 123 laminate top base vinyl layer to the top surface of bottom base vinyl layer to form a laminated composite. In some embodiments, the laminated composite comprising top base vinyl layer and bottom base vinyl layer is fed to conveyor belt 160c. As discussed with respect to first granulate 114, one skilled in the art will appreciate that the heating temperature will depend on the components used in second granulate 124.

[00044] In some embodiments, top base vinyl layer 125 comprises a vinyl chloride polymer (e.g. a PVC homopolymer) and filler. In some embodiments, top base vinyl layer 125 further comprises a plasticizer. In some embodiments, top base vinyl layer 125 further comprises a stabilizer. In some embodiments, the stabilizer is a PVC stabilizer.

[00045] For purposes of this disclosure, the terms "fabric" and "scrim" are used interchangeably, and refer to a generally planar textile structure of yarns, filaments and fibers having a facing and a lower surface. In some embodiments, the fabric or scrim is woven or non- woven. As used herein, "woven" refers to a fabric or scrim formed by weaving two sets of yarns. As used herein, "non-woven" refers to an assembly of fibers held together by interlocking the fibers in a mat, by fusing of the fibers, or by bonding the fibers with an adhesive.

[00046] In some embodiments, the multi-layer floor panel comprises a scrim. In some embodiments, the multi-layer floor panel comprises a glass scrim. In some embodiments, the glass scrim is saturated with plastisol.

[00047] In some embodiments, laminating system 100 further comprises glass roller 140 which provides a glass scrim for the multi-layer floor panel. In some embodiments, a sheet of woven or non-woven fabric is spooled around glass roller 140. In some embodiments, glass roller 140 delivers the non-woven or woven fabric 145 to glass laminator 141, 142, which laminates the lower surface of the non- woven or woven fabric 145 to the top surface of the bottom base vinyl layer 115. In such embodiments, top base vinyl layer 125 is applied to the facing of the non- woven or woven fabric 145.

[00048] In some embodiments, third hopper 130 contains a third granulate 134. In some embodiments, third granulate 134 comprises the components which form a wear layer 135. In some embodiments, wear layer 135 is laminated to the top surface of the laminated composite comprising bottom base vinyl layer 115 and top base vinyl layer 125 to form a multi-layer flooring sheet 190. In some embodiments, the multi-layer flooring sheet 190 is delivered by belt rollers 132, 133 to conveyor belt 160d.

[00049] In some embodiments, a UV curable coating is applied to the wear layer 135.

[00050] In some embodiments, laminating system 100 further comprises cutting apparatus 150. In some embodiments, cutting apparatus 150 comprises a die cutter. In some embodiments wherein laminating system 100 further comprises cutting apparatus 150, the multi-layer floor panel is cut across machine direction (AMD), into planks 200 of desired dimension.

[00051] For example, as shown in FIG. 2, a multi-layer continuous sheet is cut in the across machine direction to provide planks 200, having a length L in the across machine direction (AMD) that is greater than a width W in the machine direction (MD). As depicted in FIG. 2, machine direction runs parallel to the flow direction of the laminate sheet.

[00052] Cutting the length of the floor panel along the AMD, wherein the length to width ratio of the floor panel ranges from 25: 1 to 1.25: 1, increases the overall dimensional stability of the floor panel. In forming the floor panels of the present invention using the rollers of the present invention, the resulting floor panels may exhibit anisotropic dimensional stability. Specifically, the floor panel will exhibit greater dimensional stability (less shrinkage per unit length) along the AMD as compared to the MD. The anisotropic dimensional stability results from the directional stress/strain applied along the MD by the rollers to the polymeric composition during processing of the floor panel. The MD stress that is applied to the polymeric composition causes the resulting floor panel to later shrink along the MD over time due when exposed to certain conditions (e.g. heat, light, wear, etc.). Thus, by reorienting the floor panel so that the length is along the AMD (and the length is greater than the width), there is less distance available in the floor panel for the shrinkage to along the MD.

[00053] In some embodiments, laminating system 100 further comprises a radiation source 170. In some embodiments, radiation source 170 comprises ultraviolet radiation or infrared radiation. In some embodiments, for example as shown in FIG. 1, radiation source 170 comprises a plurality of infrared heaters. In some embodiments, radiation source 170 comprises a plurality of infrared heaters, which are positioned at a desired height above the top surface of belts 160a, 160b, 160c, 160d. In some embodiments, radiation source 170 comprises a plurality of infrared heaters, which are positioned strategically along laminating system 100, for example above conveyor belts 160a and 160b.

[00054] In some embodiments, the radiation source comprises a plurality of IR heaters (otherwise referred to as a plurality of heat lamps) that operate at a temperature ranging from about 150 °F to about 180 °F. In some embodiments, radiation source 170 provides heat sufficient to ensure that the laminated sheet has the appropriate consistency and texture.

[00055] In some embodiments, the composite sheet comprising the bottom base vinyl layer 115 and the top base vinyl layer 125 and optionally scrim 145, is subjected to a drum process similar to the processes described in U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 14/108,019.

[00056] In some embodiments, the drum process employs a process drum having a diameter, and one or more laminating stations associated with the drum. The laminating stations may include a printing station, an embossing station, and a coating station disposed at different circumferential locations spaced around the drum.

[00057] The invention will be described in greater detail by way of specific examples. The following examples are offered for illustrative purposes and are not intended to limit the invention in any manner. Those skilled in the art will readily recognize a variety of noncritical parameters, which can be changed or modified to yield essentially the same results. EXAMPLES

[00058] The dimensional stability of two exemplary vinyl based laminated composites of the present invention is evaluated. Each sample was prepared by rolling at least one vinyl layer between rollers along a machine direction, thereby creating an elongated sheet of vinyl material spanning the machine direction. The elongated sheet of vinyl material was then heated with IR heaters at a temperature between 150 °F and 180 °F. The sheet of vinyl material was then cut to a plurality of panels having a predetermined length and width and left for 24 hours at room temperature. Specifically, each panel was cut so that the length of the panel followed the AMD and the width of the panel followed the MD.

[00059] After the 24 hour period, each panel was then tested for dimensional stability according to the ASTM D1204 (measurement of dimensional stability of linear dimensional change resulting from exposure to elevated temperature). Specifically, the initial dimensions of each panel was measured using a block and dial gauge. The initial dimensions were recorded as the initial length and initial width of each panel. The plurality of panels was cut into two batches, with the first batch (i.e., Example 1) including 23 individual panels having a predetermined length and a predetermined width. The second batch (i.e. Example 2) included 24 individual panels having a predetermined length of 18 inches and a predetermined width of 18 inches.

[00060] Each batch was then placed in an oven operating at a temperature of 150 °F for 30 minutes, after which the batches were removed from the oven and allowed to cool to room temperature. Once at room temperature, the final dimensions of each sample were re-measured using a block and dial gauge. The final dimensions were recorded as the final length and final width of each sample panel.

[00061] For each batch, the initial dimensions of each sample panel were then averaged. Tables 1 and 2 (below) describe the results of the aforementioned dimensional stability evaluations.

Table 1 (Example 1)

Table 2 (Example 2)

[00062] As demonstrated by Tables 1 and 2, the dimensional retention along the AMD is greater than along the MD. Furthermore, the dimensional change per foot is much greater along the MD as compared to the AMD. Therefore, for floor panels having a length to width ratio ranging from 25: 1 to 1.25: 1, there will be a greater reduction in overall floor panel shrinkage by cutting floor panels so that the length follows the AMD (as compared to cutting the length along the MD). Although the MD will still exhibit a greater dimension change per unit along the MD (as compared to the AMD), the width of the flooring panel is smaller overall as compared to the length of the flooring panel. Thus, the overall amount of shrinkage in the flooring panel will be reduced (thereby enhancing dimensional stability) because along the width cannot be greater than the amount of shrinkage wherein resulting floor panels that have much greater overall dimensional stability and shrink less over time. Specifically, along the AMD direction there is less dimensional change per unit length as compared to that of the MD. Thus, by placing the longer dimension (i.e. length) of the floor panel along the AMD because having less change per unit length along longer distances will result in an overall reduction in the amount of reduced amount of change in dimension per unit length along greater distance have exhibit an overall much greater dimensional stability

[00063] The data described in Table 1 (above) demonstrates the superior dimensional stability provided by exemplary floor panels of the present invention in the across machine direction.

[00064] It is intended that any patents, patent applications or printed publications, including books, mentioned in this patent document be hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

[00065] As those skilled in the art will appreciate, numerous changes and modifications may be made to the embodiments described herein, without departing from the spirit of the invention. It is intended that all such variations fall within the scope of the invention.