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Title:
NON-RIGID MATERIAL MULTI-FRAME MANUFACTURING APPARATUS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/147286
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Aspects hereof relate to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing articles from non-rigid materials and methods for manufacturing articles utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus. The multi-frame manufacturing apparatus includes a plurality of discrete frames (102, 104, 1202, 1204), each frame including a movement mechanism (130, 132, 1230, 1232) that enables it to move between sequentially arranged processing stations. Each movement mechanism permits substantially horizontal movement forward and backward. The movement mechanism for at least one of the frames (102, 104, 1202, 1204) permits substantially vertical movement both up and down. Actuation of the movement mechanisms for at least two frames (102, 104, 1202, 1204) may permit the frames (102, 1202) to switch their relative positions. Each frame (102) additionally includes at least one gripping mechanism (142) for temporarily securing non-rigid material (162) in place on the framed for processing.

Inventors:
FARR, Todd R. (Inc.One Bowerman Driv, Beaverton Oregon, 97005, US)
BACKARIOV, Andrey (Level 3 Alexander House,35 Cybercit, Ebene ., 72201, MU)
DAMARI, Gilad (Level 3 Alexander House,35 Cybercit, Ebene ., 72201, MU)
RICKLIS, Ofer (Level 3 Alexander House,35 Cybercit, Ebene ., 72201, MU)
KIM, Jaeic (Inc.558 Shinpyeong-Dong, Saha-Gu,Busan, Busan 604-030, 604-030, KR)
Application Number:
US2017/019111
Publication Date:
August 31, 2017
Filing Date:
February 23, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NIKE INNOVATE C.V. (Dutch Partnership, One Bowerman DriveBeaverton, Oregon, 97005, US)
NIKE, INC. (One Bowerman Drive, Beaverton, Oregon, 97005, US)
International Classes:
B65H35/02
Foreign References:
CN204954787U2016-01-13
EP1935526A12008-06-25
JPH05272055A1993-10-19
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILHELM, Tawni L. (Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, 2555 Grand BoulevardKansas City, Missouri, 64108, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A manufacturing tool comprising: a first rectangular frame having at least one perimeter sidewall surrounding a first central void; and a second rectangular frame having at least one perimeter sidewall surrounding a second central void, wherein two opposing sides of each of the first and second rectangular frames include a gripping mechanism that temporarily grips a non-rigid material and a movement mechanism that permits at least one of horizontal movement and vertical movement between first and second parallel side rails. 2. The manufacturing tool of claim 1, wherein the gripping mechanism is a clamping mechanism that has an open material-receiving position and a closed material- gripping position.

3. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 1 through 2, wherein the non- rigid material includes a stretch direction and a non-stretch direction, and wherein the gripping mechanism grips the non-rigid material along the stretch direction.

4. The manufacturing tool of claims 1 through 3, wherein each of the first and second parallel side rails includes a first track and a second track, wherein the movement mechanism of the first rectangular frame is coupled with the first track such that horizontal movement is permitted, and wherein the movement mechanism of the second rectangular frame is coupled with the second track such that horizontal and vertical movement are permitted.

5. The manufacturing tool of claim 4, further comprising at least one linear actuator that causes the horizontal movement of the first rectangular frame and the second rectangular frame. 6. The manufacturing tool of claim 5, further comprising at least one piston that causes the vertical movement of the second rectangular frame.

7. The manufacturing tool of claim 6, wherein the at least one linear actuator and the at least one piston cooperate with one another to permit the first rectangular frame and the second rectangular frame to switch positions.

8. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 1 through 7, further comprising a material loading mechanism that loads the non-rigid material onto one of the first rectangular frame and the second rectangular frame.

9. A manufacturing tool comprising: a first frame having a first pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls to form a first rectangular structure; a second frame having a first pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls to form a second rectangular structure; and first and second parallel side rails spaced apart from one another at a distance sufficient for the first and second frames to be movably positioned between the first and second parallel side rails; wherein the first frame and the second frame are movably positioned between the first and second parallel sidewalls such that substantially horizontal movement is permitted forward and backward, wherein at least one of the first frame and the second frame is movably positioned between the first and second parallel sidewalls such that substantially vertical movement is permitted up and down, and wherein each sidewall of the first pair of sidewalls of the first frame and each sidewall of the first pair of sidewalls of the second frame includes a gripping mechanism for temporarily gripping a non-rigid material.

10. The manufacturing tool of claim 9, wherein the gripping mechanisms of each of the first pair of sidewalls of the first frame and the first pair of sidewalls of the second frame is a clamping mechanism that has an open material-receiving position and a closed material-gripping position.

11. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 9 through 10, wherein the non-rigid material includes a stretch direction and a non-stretch direction, and wherein the gripping mechanism grips the non-rigid material along the stretch direction.

12. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 9 through 11, wherein each of the first and second parallel side rails includes a first track and a second track, and wherein each sidewall of the first pair of sidewalls of the first frame includes a first movement mechanism coupled with the first track of each of the first and second parallel side rails such that horizontal movement is permitted, and wherein each sidewall of the first pair of sidewalls of the second frame includes a second movement mechanism coupled with the second track of each of the first and second parallel side rails such that horizontal and vertical movement are permitted.

13. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 9 through 12, further comprising at least one linear actuator that causes substantially horizontal movement of the first frame and the second frame.

14. The manufacturing tool of claim 13, further comprising at least one piston that causes substantially vertical movement of the at least one of the first frame and the second frame. 15. The manufacturing tool of claim 14, wherein the at least one linear actuator and the at least one piston cooperate with one another to permit the first frame and the second frame to switch positions.

16. The manufacturing tool of any of claims 9 through 15, further comprising a material loading mechanism that loads the non-rigid material onto one of the first frame and the second frame.

17. A method of manufacture utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus, comprising: loading a non-rigid material onto a first rectangular frame at a loading station, the first rectangular frame having opposing sides that each include a gripping mechanism and a first movement mechanism; causing the gripping mechanisms to temporarily grip the non-rigid material onto the first rectangular frame; causing the first movement mechanism to move the first rectangular frame substantially horizontally in a first direction while synchronously causing a second movement mechanism associated with a second rectangular frame to move substantially horizontally in an opposing direction and substantially vertically such that the second rectangular frame and the first rectangular frame change positions.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the gripping mechanism is a clamping mechanism that has an open material-receiving position and a closed material- gripping position.

19. The method of any of claims 17 through 18, wherein the non-rigid material includes a stretch direction and a non- stretch direction, and wherein the gripping mechanisms grip the non-rigid material along the stretch direction.

20. The method of any of claims 17 through 19, wherein the first movement mechanism comprises at least one linear actuator that causes the horizontal movement of the first rectangular frame, and wherein the second movement mechanism comprises at least one linear actuator that cause the horizontal movement of the second rectangular frame and at least one piston that causes the vertical movement of the second rectangular frame.

Description:
NON-RIGID MATERIAL MULTI-FRAME MANUFACTURING APPARATUS

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

Aspects hereof relate to multi-frame manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing articles. Aspects further relate to methods of manufacturing articles utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Non-rigid materials may be fed into an assembly-line- or conveyor-type manufacturing system or machine from a material stock including a large roll or continuous web. Working with such large sections of material can be cumbersome. This is particularly true as non-rigid materials generally are stretchable in at least one direction when placed under tension. Attempting to process non-rigid materials in a tensioned state causing stretch of the material may lead to manufactured articles that have mistakes or deformities and are consequently unusable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Aspects hereof relate to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing articles, (e.g., garments, sock liners, and the like) from non-rigid materials. The multi-frame manufacturing apparatus includes a plurality of discrete frames. Each frame includes a movement mechanism that enables it to move between sequentially arranged processing stations in an assembly-line- or conveyor-type manufacturing system. Each movement mechanism permits substantially horizontal movement both forward and backward. The movement mechanism for at least one of the plurality of frames additionally permits substantially vertical movement both up and down. Actuation, synchronous or asynchronous, of the movement mechanisms for at least two of the plurality of frames may permit the frames to switch their relative positions among the processing stations in the manufacturing system.

Each frame includes at least one gripping mechanism that includes an open material-receiving position and a closed material-gripping position. When a non-rigid material is loaded onto one of the frames, the gripping mechanism of the frame is in the open material-receiving position. Once the material is in place and in a non-tensioned state (that is, taut but not stretched, such that the material is not substantially distorted in any direction), the gripping mechanism closes into the closed material-gripping position such that it temporarily secures the non-rigid material in place on the frame for processing. If the material stock from which the material is loaded onto the frame is more than the quantity desired for processing as a single processing unit, the gripped portion of the material may be cut or otherwise separated from the larger quantity of material such that it may be processed more manageably.

Aspects hereof further relate to methods of manufacturing articles utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus included in a manufacturing system having a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations in an assembly-line- or conveyor-type arrangement. A non-rigid material is loaded in a non-tensioned state onto the first of a plurality of frames. The first frame includes at least one gripping mechanism that, once the material is in place on the first frame, is actuated such that it closes and temporarily holds the non-rigid material in place on the frame for processing. The non-rigid material secured to the first frame is in a taut condition but not stretched such that distortion of the material results. A movement mechanism coupled with the first frame causes the frame, with the material in place, to move at least substantially horizontally in a first direction. Synchronously or asynchronously, a second movement mechanism associated with a second frame is caused to move substantially horizontally in an opposing direction and substantially vertically causing the first frame and the second frame to switch their respective positions among the plurality of processing stations.

This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

Illustrative aspects hereof are described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, which are incorporated by reference herein and wherein:

FIG. 1 depicts an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus, in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof; FIG. 2 depicts a cross-sectional view of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus of FIG. 1 taken along line 2.-2. thereof, in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof;

FIG. 3 depicts a view of the area encircled by line 3 in FIG. 1 , in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof;

FIG. 4 depicts a view of the area encircled by line 4 in FIG. 1 , in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof;

FIG. 5 depicts a cross-sectional view of the second movement mechanism of FIG. 1 taken along line 5.-5. thereof, in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof;

FIG. 6 depicts an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having a loading mechanism in cooperation therewith, in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof;

FIGS. 7-11 are cross-sectional views depicting sequential movement and place switching of two frames according to a first frame switching mechanism, in accordance with exemplary aspects hereof; and

FIG. 12 depicts an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having a second frame switching mechanism, in accordance with additional aspects hereof.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The subject matter herein is described with specificity to meet statutory requirements. However, the description itself is not intended to limit the scope of this patent. Rather, the inventors have contemplated that the claimed subject matter might also be embodied in other ways, to include different elements or combinations of elements similar to the ones described in this document, in conjunction with other present or future technologies.

Aspects hereof contemplate a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus (e.g., a manufacturing apparatus having at least two discrete processing frames) for manufacturing articles, for instance, sock liners, from non-rigid materials. The multi-frame manufacturing apparatus provides for manageably handling discrete portions of a large material stock of non-rigid material in a non-tensioned state (i.e., taut but not stretched, such that the material is not substantially distorted in any direction). For instance, the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus, in exemplary aspects, temporarily secures discrete portions of non-rigid material to the frames for processing. In aspects, the non-rigid material is secured to the frames along the stretch direction (that is, the direction along which the non-rigid material has the greatest relative ability to stretch or deform from its relaxed, taut, but non-stretched state). In this way, waste occasioned by the manufacture of deformed or otherwise misshapen articles is reduced as the non-rigid material is secured in its non-tensioned state during processing to prevent such deformity thereof. Further, discrete non-rigid material portions may be handled more manageably than processing continuously from a large material stock.

Aspects hereof relate to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing articles, e.g., sock liners, garments or garment portions, from non-rigid materials. Non-rigid materials may include, by way of example and not limitation, knit materials, woven materials, mesh materials, non-woven materials, leather materials, foamed materials, and the like. Non-rigid materials utilized in the manufacture of articles often are fed, by way of example only, from material stock (e.g., material rolls or webs) having large quantities of material. Material from a material stock may be fed into a manufacturing system at an appropriate processing station of a plurality of processing stations sequentially arranged in an assembly line. Non-rigid materials generally include a direction (referred to herein as the "stretch direction") along which the material has the greatest relative ability to stretch or deform from its relaxed, taut, but non-stretched state when the material is in a state of tension or strain (e.g., a stretched state). Such tension may cause deformity of the non- rigid material during processing resulting in deformed or misshapen manufactured articles. As such, in exemplary aspects, maintaining placement of non-rigid materials in a non- tensioned state during processing (i.e. , taut but not stretched, such that the material is not substantially distorted in any direction) may be desirable to reduce waste occasioned by production of deformed, and consequently unusable, articles or portions of articles.

As will be discussed throughout, it is contemplated that a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus in accordance with aspects hereof may include at least two discrete frames configured for receiving a non-rigid material and for moving the non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. In exemplary aspects, the frames may be substantially rectangular and movably positioned between a pair of side rails. As used herein, it is contemplated that "substantially rectangular" refers to frames having a first pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls. The sidewalls may be formed from one or more wall portions that collectively form a substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall surrounding a central void. When multiple wall portions are assembled to form the substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall, aspects hereof contemplate that those wall portions requiring attachment to one another may have end portions cut at angles of about forty-five degrees (45°) to allow the wall portions to be mitered to form a rectangular structure. It will be understood that angles slightly off of 45° are contemplated and are intended to be within the scope of aspects hereof. Further aspects hereof contemplate the joining of wall portions having abutting attachment surfaces at about ninety (90°) relative to one another or any other angle permitting attachment to form a rectangular structure. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof. Mechanisms for fastening the wall portions may include various screws or other fastening mechanisms known to those having ordinary skill in the art.

Each frame may include a movement mechanism that permits substantially horizontal movement both forward and backward between the pair of side rails. As used herein, the terms "forward" and "backward" refer to opposing movements in the longitudinal direction of the side rails between which movement is permitted. In aspects, the pair of side rails may be positioned parallel to one another and spaced apart from one another by a distance sufficient to permit functional receipt of the frames. As used herein, "substantially horizontal movement" refers to horizontal movement in the longitudinal direction of the side rails that may or may not also include vertical movement to a lesser extent than the horizontal movement. Substantially horizontal movement results in a discernible horizontal progression either forward or backward and may include, but does not necessarily include, a concurrent discernible vertical progression. The movement mechanism for at least one of the two frames additionally permits substantially vertical movement both up and down. As used herein, "up" and "down" refer to opposing movements in the latitudinal direction of the side rails between which movement is permitted As used herein, "substantially vertical movement" refers to vertical movement in the latitudinal direction of the side rails that may or may not also include horizontal movement to a lesser extent than the vertical movement. Substantially vertical movement results in a discernible vertical progression either up or down and may include, but does not necessarily include, a concurrent discernible horizontal progression. In aspects, the movement mechanism for each of the two frames permits both substantially horizontal movement and substantially vertical movement.

Aspects hereof contemplate that actuation of the movement mechanisms for two frames of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus may permit the two frames to switch positions with one another relative to the conveyor- or assembly-line processing stations. Processing stations may include, by way of example and not limitation, stations for cutting, pressing, molding, adhering, and the like. By way of example only, if a first of the two frames is at a first processing station and a second of the two frames is at a second processing station, the first and second processing stations being sequentially arranged with respect to one another, actuation of the movement mechanisms for both frames may permit the first frame to proceed to the second processing station (via substantially horizontal movement or both substantially horizontal and substantially vertical movement) and the second frame to proceed to the first processing station (again, via substantially horizontal movement or both substantially vertical and substantially horizontal movement). As will be understood and appreciated by those having ordinary skill in the art, when it is stated herein that the two frames "switch positions," it is contemplated that the two frames do not necessarily switch to the exact same positions but that the two frames change their relative position in the manufacturing process. For instance, if the first frame was at a sequentially later processing station in the manufacturing process than the second frame, it is contemplated that the two frames have switched positions if after the switch, the second frame is at a sequentially later processing station in the manufacturing process than the first frame. In exemplary aspects, the switching of frames relative to the processing stations of the manufacturing process permits processing of material associated with one frame while material is being loaded onto another frame. This increases speed of manufacture and efficiency as processing does not cease when new material is loaded into the processing system.

In aspects, each frame may include one or more gripping mechanisms configured to temporarily secure the non-rigid material on the frame in a non-tensioned state for processing, that is, in a state wherein the material is taut but not stretched, such that the material is not substantially distorted in any direction. If the frame is a substantially rectangular frame, aspects hereof contemplate gripping mechanisms coupled with (e.g., pivotally connected with) each of two opposing sidewalls thereof. Each gripping mechanism may be configured as a clamping mechanism and may include an open material-receiving position and a closed material-gripping position. When a non-rigid material is loaded onto the frame, the gripping mechanisms of the frame may be in the open material-receiving position. Once the material is in place and in a non-tensioned state, the gripping mechanisms may close into the closed material-gripping position such that they temporarily secure the non-rigid material in place on the frame for processing. In aspects, the gripping mechanisms grip the non-rigid material along the stretch direction (that is, the direction along which the non-rigid material has the greatest relative ability to stretch or deform from its relaxed, taut, but non-stretched state). If the material stock from which the material is loaded onto the frame is more than the quantity desired for processing on the frame, the gripped portion of the material may be cut or otherwise separated from the larger quantity of material such that it may be processed more manageably.

As will be discussed throughout, it is contemplated that aspects provided herein also are directed to a method of manufacturing articles (or portions thereof) formed from non-rigid materials utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus. Articles may include, by way of example and not limitation, apparel, outerwear, sock liners, other portions of footwear, and the like. In exemplary aspects, a quantity of non-rigid material is loaded onto a first frame from a material stock utilizing a material loading mechanism. The non- rigid material is loaded onto the first frame at a loading station that is one of a plurality of sequentially-arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. Aspects hereof contemplate that the first frame may be substantially rectangular and movably positioned between a pair of parallel side rails.

In aspects, the first frame may include one or more gripping mechanisms configured to temporarily secure the non-rigid material on the first frame in a non-tensioned state for processing (i.e., in a state where in the material is taut but not stretched). When the first frame is substantially rectangular, aspects hereof contemplate gripping mechanisms coupled with each of two opposing sidewalls, the two opposing sidewalls being adjacent the parallel side rails. Each gripping mechanism may be configured as a clamping mechanism and include an open material-receiving position and a closed material-gripping position. When the non-rigid material is loaded onto the first frame at the loading station, the gripping mechanisms of the first frame may be in the open material-receiving position. Once the material is in its desired manufacturing location and in a non-tensioned state, the gripping mechanisms may close into the closed material-gripping position temporarily securing the non-rigid material on the first frame for processing. In aspects, the non-rigid material is gripped along the stretch direction (i.e. , the direction having the greatest relative ability to stretch or deform). If the material stock from which the non-rigid material is loaded onto the frame is more than the quantity desired for processing as a single processing unit, the gripped portion of the material may be cut or otherwise separated from the larger quantity of material.

The first frame may include at least one movement mechanism coupled therewith that permits substantially horizontal movement both forward and backward between the pair of parallel side rails. In aspects, the parallel side rails are spaced apart from one another by a distance sufficient to permit movement of the first frame there between. In aspects, the movement mechanism may be actuated causing the first frame, with the material in place, to move substantially horizontally in a first direction while, synchronously or asynchronously, a second movement mechanism associated with a second frame, also substantially rectangular and movably positioned between the pair of parallel side rails in accordance with aspects hereof, is caused to move substantially horizontally in an opposing direction and substantially vertically causing the first frame and the second frame to switch positions. In additional aspects, the movement mechanism may be actuated causing the first frame, with the material in place, to move substantially horizontally in a first direction and substantially vertically while, synchronously or asynchronously, a second movement mechanism associated with a second substantially rectangular frame (movably positioned between the pair of parallel side rails in accordance with aspects hereof) is caused to move substantially horizontally in a direction opposing the first direction and substantially vertically such that the first frame and the second frame cooperate to switch their relative positions. It will be understood and appreciated by those having ordinary skill in the art that that the first frame and the second frame have switched positions in accordance with aspects hereof when the first and second frames have changed their relative positions in the manufacturing process.

In aspects, one or more of the movement mechanism for the first frame, the movement mechanism for the second frame and the gripping mechanisms may be manually actuated. In aspects, one or more of the movement mechanisms and the gripping mechanisms may be actuated by coordination with a computing device (not shown) that is functionally and/or logically coupled with at least one of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus, the processing stations, and the frames. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Referring now to FIG. 1, an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 is depicted in accordance with aspects hereof. The multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 includes a first frame 102, a second frame 104, and first and second parallel side rails 106, 108. It is understood that additional elements may be included in alternative aspects. Further, it is understood that one or more of the listed elements of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 may be omitted in alternative exemplary aspects. Further, the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 is depicted for illustrative purposes and may have alternative configurations, shaping, sizing, and arrangements.

Each of the first and second frames 102, 104 is discrete from one another and, as more fully described below, is configured to temporarily secure a discrete portion of a non- rigid material and to move the portion of the non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. The first frame 102 includes a first pair of sidewalls 110, 112 positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls 114, 116 positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls 110, 112 to form a substantially rectangular structure. The sidewalls 110, 112, 114, 116 may be formed from one or more wall portions that collectively form a substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall surrounding a central void 118. The central void 118 provides a material processing area that is void of interference by the first frame 102. In exemplary aspects, the sidewalls 110, 112, 114, 116 each may be discrete wall portions having end portions cut at about 45° angles in an arrangement permitting them to be mitered to form the substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall structure of the first frame 102. In exemplary aspects, the sidewalls 110, 112, 114, 116 each may be discrete wall portions having attachment surfaces that abut one another at about 90°, or any other angle permitting attachment to one another to form a rectangular structure. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Mechanisms for fastening the wall portions together may include various screws or other fastening mechanisms known to those having ordinary skill in the art. It will be understood that the rectangular perimeter sidewall collectively formed from the first and second pairs of sidewalls 110, 112, 114, 116 may be formed as a continuous structure or from any number of wall portions. Further, any mechanism for fastening wall portions to one another may be utilized within aspects hereof. The formation of the first frame 102 and/or the mechanism for securing wall portions comprising the first frame 102 are not intended to limit aspects hereof in any way. Still further, it is understood that frames having other than a substantially rectangular structure may be utilized in accordance with aspects hereof. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Similar to the first frame 102, the second frame 104 includes a first pair of sidewalls 120, 122 positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls 124, 126 positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls 120, 122 to form a substantially rectangular structure. The sidewalls 120, 122, 124, 126 may be formed from one or more wall portions that collectively form a substantially rectangular perimeter side wall surrounding a central void 128 that provides a processing area free from interference by the second frame 104. When a plurality of wall portions is assembled to form the substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall, the wall portions may include attachment surfaces that abut one another at 45°, 90°, or any other desired angle, to allow the wall portions to be joined to form a rectangular structure. Mechanisms for fastening the wall portions together may include various screws or other fastening mechanisms known to those having ordinary skill in the art. It will be understood and appreciated that the rectangular perimeter sidewall collectively formed from the first and second pairs of sidewalls 120, 122, 124, 126 may be formed as a continuous structure or from any number of wall portions. Further, any mechanism for fastening wall portions to one another may be utilized within aspects hereof. The formation of the second frame 104 and/or the mechanism for securing wall portions comprising the second frame 104 are not intended to limit aspects hereof in any way. Still further, it is understood that frames having other than a substantially rectangular structure may be utilized in accordance with aspects hereof. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Though the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 of FIG. 1 includes two frames 102, 104, aspects hereof contemplate any quantity of frames. For instance, aspects hereof are equally applicable to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having three frames, four frames, five frames, etc. The quantity of frames comprising a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus as described throughout is not intended to limit the scope of aspects hereof.

As previously set forth, each of the first frame 102 and the second frame 104 is configured for moving a quantity of non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. As such, the first frame 102 includes a first movement mechanism 130 coupled therewith and the second frame 104 includes a second movement mechanism 132 coupled therewith. Each of the first movement mechanism 130 and the second movement mechanism 132 permits substantially horizontal movement both forward and backward between the pair of parallel side rails 106, 108, e.g., in the longitudinal direction 168 (see FIG. 6)thereof. The second movement mechanism 132 further permits substantially vertical movement of the second frame 104 both up and down, e.g. , in the latitudinal direction 170 (see FIG. 6) of the side rails 106, 108. As more fully described below, FIG. 12 illustrates an aspect hereof wherein both a first movement mechanism and a second movement mechanism permit substantially horizontal movement and substantially vertical movement.

Turning now to FIG. 2, a cross-sectional view of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 of FIG. 1 is illustrated, the cross-section being taken along line 2.-2. of Fig. 1. As illustrated, the first parallel side rail 106 includes a first track 134 and a second track 136. The first track 134 is positioned vertically beneath the second track 136 in the latitudinal direction 170 (see FIG. 6) thereof. It will be understood by those having ordinary skill in the art that, while shown only with respect to the first side rail 106, the second side rail 108 includes similar and opposing structure to the first track 134 and the second track 136 illustrated in association with the first side rail 106.

The first movement mechanism 130 (visible with reference to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3) is coupled with each of the first pair of opposing sidewalls 110, 112 of the first frame 102 and is configured to movably cooperate with the first track 134. In aspects, the first movement mechanism 130 may include a movement actuating device 131, e.g., a linear actuator, motor, or the like, that cooperates with the first track 134 to propel the first frame 102 substantially horizontally in the forward and backward directions. The second movement mechanism 132 (visible with reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 4) is coupled with each of the first pair of opposing sidewalls 120, 122 of the second frame 104 and is configured to movably cooperate with the second track 136. With reference to FIG. 5, a cross-sectional view is depicted showing the second movement mechanism 132 in cooperation with the second track 136 of the first parallel side rail 106, the cross-section taken along line 5.-5. of FIG. 1. In aspects, the second movement mechanism 132 may include a movement actuating device 133, e.g. , a linear actuator, motor, or the like, that cooperates with the second track 136 to propel the second frame 104 substantially horizontally in the forward and backward directions. In exemplary aspects hereof, the second movement mechanism 132 also may include at least one piston 135 that cooperates with the second frame 104 to propel the second frame 104 substantially vertically in the up and down directions. As more fully described below, the illustrated arrangement permits the second frame 104 to pass vertically over the first frame 102 as the two frames move in opposing horizontal directions such that their relative position with respect to the manufacturing apparatus 100 is switched when the first movement mechanism 130 and the second movement mechanism 132 are actuated. Referring back to FIG. 2, illustrated is a cross-section of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 100 of FIG. 1 taken along line 2.-2. thereof. The first parallel side rail 106 includes a first track 134 and a second track 136, the first track 134 being positioned vertically beneath the second track 136. The first movement mechanism 130 (visible with reference to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3) is coupled with the opposing sidewall 110 of the first frame 102 and is configured to movably cooperate with the first track 134. The second movement mechanism 132 is coupled with the opposing sidewall 120 of the second frame 104 and is configured to movably cooperate with the second track 136.

In aspects, actuation of the first movement mechanism 130 and the second movement mechanism 132 may cause the first frame 102 and the second frame 104 to switch positions with one another relative to the sequentially arranged processing stations. An exemplary process in which such position switching may occur is illustrated with reference to FIGS. 7-10. With reference to FIG. 7, the first frame is illustrated as having moved substantially horizontally in a first direction, the discernible horizontal progression relative to the position of the first frame 102 in FIG. 2 being visible. With reference to FIG. 8, the second frame 104 is illustrated as having moved substantially vertically in an upward direction. With reference to FIG. 9, once positioned to clear the first frame 102, the second frame 104 is caused to move substantially horizontally in the horizontal direction opposite of the horizontal direction in which the first frame 102 was caused to move. As shown in FIG. 10, synchronously, the first frame 102 is illustrated as having continued its horizontal progression in the first direction. As illustrated in FIG. 11, the second frame 104 is illustrated as having moved substantially vertically in a downward direction such that the first and second frames 102, 104 have switched their relative places in the sequential arrangement of the processing stations.

With reference back to FIG. 1, each of the first frame 102 and the second frame 104 includes one or more gripping mechanisms configured to temporarily secure the non-rigid material in the respective frame 102, 104 in a non-tensioned state for processing. As illustrated, the first frame 102 includes first and second gripping mechanisms 138, 140 coupled with its opposing first pair of sidewalls 110, 112, those sidewalls 110, 112 that are adjacent the first and second parallel side rails 106, 108. Similarly, the second frame 104 includes first and second gripping mechanisms 142, 144 coupled with its opposing first pair of sidewalls 120, 122. In aspects, the gripping mechanisms 138, 140, 142, 144 may be pivotally connected with the frame (as shown with respect to gripping mechanism 142 of FIG. 5). Each of the first and second gripping mechanisms 138, 140 of the first frame 102 and the first and second gripping mechanisms 142, 144 of the second frame 104 may be configured as a clamping mechanism (as shown) and include an open material-receiving position and a closed material-gripping position. The first and second gripping mechanisms 138, 140 of the first frame 102 are illustrated in the open material-receiving position (best seen at the first gripping mechanism 138 as the second parallel side rail 108 largely obscures the view of the second gripping mechanism 140). In the open material-receiving position, the first and second gripping mechanisms 138, 140 are in a released state and do not substantially obscure the top surface of the first frame 102. In this way, the first frame 102 may receive a non-rigid material freely over the central void 118 and around the perimeter sidewall formed from the first pair of sidewalls 110, 112 and the second pair of sidewalls 114, 116, as more fully described below. The first gripping mechanism 138 of the first frame 102 in its open material-receiving position additionally is shown in the cross-sectional view of FIG. 2, as well as in the view of FIG. 3.

Once the desired material is in place and in a non-tensioned state (i.e. , in a state where in the material is taut but not stretched) over the desired frame, the gripping mechanisms may be closed or clamped to temporarily secure the non-rigid material into place and prevent misshaping or other deformity. In FIG. 1, the first and second gripping mechanisms 142, 144 of the second frame 104 are illustrated in the closed material-gripping position. In the closed material-gripping position, the first and second gripping mechanisms 142, 144 are in an actuated state and temporarily hold the non-rigid material over the central void 128 and to the top surface of the first pair of sidewalls 120, 122 of the second frame 104 until such time as the first and second gripping mechanisms 142, 144 are released. The first gripping mechanism 142 of the second frame 104 in its closed material-gripping position additionally is shown in the cross-sectional view of FIG. 2 as well as in the view of FIG. 4.

Exemplary aspects hereof also are directed to a method of manufacturing articles (or portions thereof) formed from non-rigid materials utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus (for instance, a two frame manufacturing apparatus) arranged for moving the non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. Turning to FIG. 6, a perspective view is depicted of an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 600 in cooperation with a material loading mechanism 146. The illustrated material loading mechanism 146 includes a roll 148 of non-rigid material and a loading frame 150 that is configured to facilitate loading of the non-rigid material onto a first frame 152 at a material loading station 154 (e.g., the first station in a series of sequentially positioned processing stations in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type arrangement). The non-rigid material includes a non-stretch direction 168 (i.e., a direction of relatively less stretch or give when the material is in a tensioned state) and a stretch direction 170 (i.e. , a direction of relatively more stretch or give when the material is in a tensioned state). In exemplary aspects, a portion of non-rigid material from the material roll 148 may be loaded onto the first frame 152 at the material loading station 154 when first and second gripping mechanisms 156, 158 for the first frame 152 are in their open material-receiving position, as shown. Once the material has reached its desired placement with respect to the first frame 152, the first and second gripping mechanisms 156, 158 for the first frame 152 may be closed into their closed material- gripping position, temporarily securing a portion of the non-rigid material to the first frame 152. A second frame 160 is illustrated in FIG. 6 with a portion of material 162 secured thereto by closed first and second gripping mechanisms 164, 166. In aspects, once a material portion is secured on a frame, it may be cut or otherwise separated from the material roll 148 and the loading frame 150 may return to a position of disengagement with the frame.

As previously set forth with reference to FIGS. 7-11, supra, in accordance with aspects hereof, movement mechanisms respectively associated with each of the first frame 152 and the second frame 160 may cause the first frame 152 to move substantially horizontally in a first direction while synchronously the movement mechanism associated with the second frame may cause the second frame 160 to move substantially horizontally in an opposing direction and substantially vertically such that the first frame 152 and the second frame 160 switch or change positions. In this way, manufacturing with respect to one of the first and second frames 152, 160 may continue while non-rigid material is being loaded onto the other of the first and second frames 152, 160.

Referring now to FIG. 12, an exemplary multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 having first and second movement mechanisms that both permit substantially horizontal movement and substantially vertical movement is depicted in accordance with aspects hereof. As with the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus of FIGS. 1-11, the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 includes a first frame 1202, a second frame 1204, and first and second parallel side rails 1206, 1208. It is understood that additional elements may be included in alternative aspects. Further, it is understood that one or more of the listed elements of the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 may be omitted in alternative exemplary aspects. Further, the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 is depicted for illustrative purposes and may have alternative configurations, shaping, sizing, and arrangements.

Each of the first and second frames 1202, 1204 is discrete from one another and is configured to temporarily secure a discrete portion of a non-rigid material and to move the portion of the non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. The first frame 1202 includes a first pair of sidewalls 1210, 1212 positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls 1214, 1216 positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls 1210, 1212 to form a substantially rectangular structure. The sidewalls 1210, 1212, 1214, and 1216 may be formed from one or more wall portions that collectively form a substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall surrounding a central void (not shown). The central void (not shown) provides a material processing area that is void of interference by the first frame 1202.

In exemplary aspects, the sidewalls 1210, 1212, 1214, 1216 each may be discrete wall portions having end portions cut at any other angle permitting attachment to one another to form a rectangular structure. Mechanisms for fastening the wall portions together may include various screws or other fastening mechanisms known to those having ordinary skill in the art. It will be understood that the rectangular perimeter sidewall collectively formed from the first and second pairs of sidewalls 1210, 1212, 1214, 1216 may be formed as a continuous structure or from any number of wall portions. Further, any mechanism for fastening wall portions to one another may be utilized within aspects hereof. The formation of the first frame 1202 and/or the mechanism for securing wall portions comprising the first frame 1202 are not intended to limit aspects hereof in any way. Still further, it is understood that frames having other than a substantially rectangular structure may be utilized in accordance with aspects hereof. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Similar to the first frame 1202, the second frame 1204 includes a first pair of sidewalls 1220, 1222 positioned opposite one another and a second pair of sidewalls 1224, 1226 positioned opposite one another and perpendicular to the first pair of sidewalls 1220, 1222 to form a substantially rectangular structure. The sidewalls 1220, 1222, 1224, 1226 may be formed from one or more wall portions that collectively form a substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall surrounding a central void (not shown) that provides a processing area free from interference by the second frame 1204. When a plurality of wall portions is assembled to form the substantially rectangular perimeter sidewall, the wall portions may include attachment surfaces that abut one another at any desired angle, to allow the wall portions to be joined to form a rectangular structure. Mechanisms for fastening the wall portions together may include various screws or other fastening mechanisms known to those having ordinary skill in the art. It will be understood and appreciated that the rectangular perimeter sidewall collectively formed from the first and second pairs of sidewalls 1220, 1222, 1224, 1226 may be formed as a continuous structure or from any number of wall portions. Further, any mechanism for fastening wall portions to one another may be utilized within aspects hereof. The formation of the second frame 1204 and/or the mechanism for securing wall portions comprising the second frame 1204 are not intended to limit aspects hereof in any way. Still further, it is understood that frames having other than a substantially rectangular structure may be utilized in accordance with aspects hereof. Any and all such variations, and any combination thereof, are contemplated to be within the scope of aspects hereof.

Though the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 of FIG. 12 includes two frames 1202, 1204, aspects hereof contemplate any quantity of frames. For instance, aspects hereof are equally applicable to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having three frames, four frames, five frames, etc. The quantity of frames comprising a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus as described throughout is not intended to limit the scope of aspects hereof.

As previously set forth, each of the first frame 1202 and the second frame 1204 is configured for moving a quantity of non-rigid material through a plurality of sequentially arranged processing stations positioned in a conveyor- or assembly-line-type of arrangement. As such, the first frame 1202 includes a first movement mechanism 1230 coupled therewith and the second frame 104 includes a second movement mechanism 1232 coupled therewith. Each of the first movement mechanism 1230 and the second movement mechanism 1232 permits substantially horizontal movement both forward and backward between the pair of parallel side rails 1206, 1208, e.g., in the longitudinal direction 1268 thereof. Each of the first movement mechanism 1230 and the second movement mechanism 1232 further permits substantially vertical movement of the first frame 1202 and the second frame 1204, respectively, both up and down, e.g. , in the latitudinal direction 1270 of the side rails 1206, 1208. The first movement mechanism 1230 is coupled with each of the first pair of opposing sidewalls 1210, 1221 of the first frame 1202 and with opposing side rails 1206, 1208 and is configured to movably cooperate with the first and second side rails 1206, 1208. In aspects, the first movement mechanism 1230 may include one or more movement actuating devices, e.g. , a linear actuators, motors, or the like, that cooperate with the first and second side rails 1206, 1208 to propel the first frame 1202 substantially horizontally in the forward and backward directions, as well as substantially vertically in the up and down directions. The second movement mechanism 1232 is coupled with each of the first pair of opposing sidewalls 1220, 1222 of the second frame 1204 and with the opposing side rails 1206, 1208 and also is configured to movably cooperate with the first and second side rails 1206, 1208. In aspects, the second movement mechanism 1232 may include one or more movement actuating devices, e.g. , a linear actuators, motors, or the like, that cooperate with the first and second side rails 1206, 1208 to propel the second frame 1204 substantially horizontally in the forward and backward directions, as well as substantially vertically in the up and down directions. The illustrated arrangement permits the second frame 1204 to pass vertically over the first frame 1202 and/or the first frame 1202 to pass vertically over the second frame 1204 as the two frames move in opposing horizontal directions such that their relative position with respect to the manufacturing apparatus 1200 is switched when the first movement mechanism 1230 and the second movement mechanism 1232 are actuated.

In aspects, actuation of the first movement mechanism 1230 and the second movement mechanism 1232 may cause the first frame 1202 and the second frame 1204 to switch positions with one another relative to the sequentially arranged processing stations. It will be understood by those having ordinary skill in the art that gripping mechanisms as described with respect to aspects illustrated in FIGS. 1-11 are included in the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus 1200 of FIG. 12 and function as previously set forth.

As can be seen, aspects hereof relate to a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus for manufacturing articles, for instance, sock liners, formed of a non-rigid material. Aspects hereof further relate to a method of manufacturing articles, for instance, sock liners, utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus. A multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having a structure as described herein permits interchangeability of the position of multiple manufacturing frames enabling processing of one or more articles to progress while material for another article is being loaded onto the apparatus. A multi-frame manufacturing apparatus having a structure as described herein further permits processing of a portion of a non-rigid material separated from a larger material stock, the portion being held in a non-tensioned state during processing and, accordingly, reducing waste occasioned by deformed and consequently unusable articles.

Although the multi-frame manufacturing apparatus and method of manufacturing articles formed from non-rigid materials utilizing a multi-frame manufacturing apparatus are described above by referring to particular aspects, it should be understood that modifications and variations could be made without departing from the intended scope of protection provided by the following claims. It will be understood that certain features and sub-combinations are of utility and may be employed without reference to other features and sub-combinations. This is contemplated by and is within the scope of the claims.

While specific elements and steps are discussed in connection to one another, it is understood that any element and/or steps provided herein is contemplated as being combinable with any other elements and/or steps regardless of explicit provision of the same while still being within the scope provided herein. Since many possible aspects may be made of the disclosure without departing from the scope thereof, it is to be understood that all matter herein set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

As used herein and in connection with the claims listed hereinafter, the terminology "any of claims" or similar variations of said terminology is intended to be interpreted such that features of claims may be combined in any combination. For example, an exemplary claim 4 may indicate the method/apparatus of any of claims 1 through 3, which is intended to be interpreted such that features of claim 1 and claim 4 may be combined, elements of claim 2 and claim 4 may be combined, elements of claim 3 and 4 may be combined, elements of claims 1, 2, and 4 may be combined, elements of claims 2, 3, and 4 may be combined, elements of claims 1, 2, 3, and 4 may be combined, and/or other variations. Further, the terminology "any of claims" or similar variations of said terminology is intended to include "any one of claims" or other variations of such terminology, as indicated by some of the examples provided above.