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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
PERFORATED ARTICLES AND MANUFACTURE THEREOF
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/144498
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Methods and apparatuses for manufacture of an article are disclosed A laser tool (100, 16, 58, 86) is used to produce openings (42, 91, 92) in at least a shaped part of the article, the openings (42, 91, 92) being arranged to allow air flow through the openings (42, 91, 92) while resisting water penetration there through in at least one direction. An article manufactured by such methods and apparatuses is also disclosed.

Inventors:
TOWNS, Christopher John (Sellicks Green farm, Sellicks GreenBlagdon Hill, Taunton Somerset TA3 7SA, TA3 7SA, GB)
Application Number:
EP2017/053991
Publication Date:
August 31, 2017
Filing Date:
February 22, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
C & J CLARK INTERNATIONAL LIMITED (40 High Street, Street Somerset BA16 0EQ, BA16 0EQ, GB)
International Classes:
A43B7/08; A41D27/28; A43B7/12; A43B23/02
Foreign References:
US5539182A1996-07-23
US4038513A1977-07-26
US20130233477A12013-09-12
GB808257A1959-01-28
DE102009049776A12010-06-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RUUSKANEN, Juha-Pekka (Page White & Farrer, Bedford HouseJohn Street, London Greater London WC1N 2BF, WC1N 2BF, GB)
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Claims:
Claims

1. A method for manufacture of an article, the method comprising using a laser tool to produce openings in at least a shaped part of the article that are arranged to allow air flow through the openings while resisting water penetration through the openings in at least one direction.

2. A method according to claim 1 , comprising producing the water penetration resisting air flow openings such that different sizes and/or shapes are provided at different depths of the openings.

3. A method according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the article comprises material defining an internal space thereof, the method comprising producing the water penetration resisting air flow openings to have a larger opening area on an internal surface of material than is the opening area on an external surface of the material.

4. A method according to claim 2 or 3, comprising producing at least one opening with tapering walls.

5. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the openings are produced to be invisible or barely noticeable to the naked eye on at least one surface. 6. A method according to any preceding claim, comprising producing the openings in at least one of leather, leather like material, foam material, fabric, rubber, and plastic.

7. A method according to any preceding claim, comprising cutting the openings by the laser tool into layered material through a plurality of layers in one operation to produce aligned through holes.

8. A method according to any preceding claim, further comprising producing openings by a laser tool before forming the shape of the article.

9. A method according to any preceding claim, comprising producing at least some openings by the laser tool between forming stages of the article and/or after forming the final shape of the article.

10. A method according to any preceding claim, comprising moving the article and the laser tool relative to each other.

11. A method according to claim 10, comprising moving, by an actuator, the article relative to the laser tool or the laser tool relative to the article.

12. A method according to any preceding claim, comprising producing the openings to provide flexibility and/or weight reduction of the article.

13. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the article comprises an article of footwear, the method comprising producing the openings in at least one of upper material and sole material of the footwear.

14. A method according to claim 13, comprising producing the openings by the laser tool so that they extend through the sole material to a cavity within the sole material. 15. A method according to claim 14, comprising producing the openings through at least one of an inner sole material, a middle sole material, outer sole material, and footbed material.

16. A method according to any of the claims 1 to 12, wherein the article comprises one of an item of headwear, an item of clothing, upholstery, a glove, a belt and a bag.

17. Apparatus for use in manufacture of an article, comprising a laser tool for producing openings in at least a part of the article, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings into a shaped part of the article that are arranged to allow air to flow there through while resisting water penetration through the openings in at least one direction. 18. An apparatus according to claim 17, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings with different size and/or shape at different depths of the openings.

19. An apparatus according to claim 18, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings with larger opening area on an internal surface of material for an article comprising an internal space than is the opening area on the external surface of the material.

20. An apparatus according to claim 18 or 19, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings with tapering walls.

21. An apparatus according to any of claims 17 to 20, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings that are invisible or barely noticeable to the naked eye on at least one surface.

22. An apparatus according to any of claims 17 to 21 , wherein the laser tool is configured to cut openings into layered material through a plurality of layers in one operation. 23. An apparatus according to any of claims 17 to 22, configured to produce at least some of the openings into an article formed into its final shape.

24. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 17 to 23, comprising an actuator for moving the article in at least one stage of manufacture of the article relative to a laser beam produced by the laser tool.

25. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 17 to 24, comprising an actuator for moving the laser tool in at least one stage of manufacture of the article relative to the article. 26. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 17 to 25, configured to produce openings into upper material and/or sole material of an article of footwear, an item of headwear, an item of clothing, upholstery, a glove, a belt and a bag.

27. An article comprising openings manufactured by a method according to any of claims 1 to 16 or an apparatus according any of claim 17 to 26.

28. An article according to claim 27, comprising footwear wherein openings are produced by the laser tool such that the openings extend through sole material to a cavity within the sole material and/or the openings extend through upper material.

29. An article according to claim 28, comprising openings manufactured by the laser tool and extending through at least one of inner sole material, middle sole material, outer sole material, and a footbed.

30. An article according to any of claims 24 to 29, comprising an article of footwear, wherein air circulation openings are manufactured by the laser tool on a predefined surface area of a shaped upper component of the article of footwear.

Description:
Perforated articles and manufacture thereof

The present disclosure relates to manufacture of articles, and more particularly to methods and apparatuses for manufacture of openings to articles such as footwear, gloves, hats, belts, clothing, bags and other wearable items, upholstery and so on. The invention also relates to articles and materials where at least a part thereof is perforated by the herein disclosed methods and apparatuses.

Openings may be desired on various articles for various reasons. For example, air vents and/or decorations may be desired. Improved flexibility and/or reduced weight may also be provided by openings.

An example of wearable items is footwear. An article of footwear can comprise e.g. a shoe, boot, sandal or the like or a component thereof. E.g. a shoe is typically manufactured from components known as an upper and a sole. An upper can be made from various materials such as leather, textiles and/or synthetic materials. A sole is typically made from a more hardwearing material, such as rubber. The upper and the sole can comprise layers of (different) materials. The upper is attached to the sole, for example by means of gluing and/or stitching. Various techniques are available for producing the shape of footwear. Articles of footwear can be manufactured from various materials. Some of the materials may not breathe sufficiently and thus insufficient air circulation may be provided, making the footwear uncomfortable to wear.

There is a desire for footwear that provides sufficient ventilation. Ventilation may be desired also in the context of other articles. In addition to ventilation, conduits may be desired for other reasons, for example to increase flexibility and/or reduce weight of materials. It may be desired in some applications that the conduit arrangement is invisible or almost invisible to the naked eye. Also, flexibility in patterning ventilation conduits or other conduits might be desired. It may be desired to position the openings accurately relative to other parts of the article and/or to each other. According to an aspect there is provided a method for manufacture of an article, the method comprising using a laser tool to produce openings in at least a shaped part of the article that are arranged to allow air flow through the openings while resisting water penetration through the openings in at least one direction.

In accordance with another aspect there is provided an apparatus for use in manufacture of an article, comprising a laser tool for producing openings in at least a part of the article, wherein the laser tool is configured to produce openings into a shaped part of the article that are arranged to allow air to flow there through while resisting water penetration through the openings in at least one direction.

In accordance with yet another aspect there is provided an article comprising openings manufactured by a method or an apparatus according to herein described principles. According to an aspect the article comprises an article of footwear or a component thereof.

In accordance with a more specific aspect water penetration resisting air flow openings are produced, by the laser tool, such that different sizes and/or shapes are provided at different depths of the openings.

The article can comprise material defining an internal space. Water penetration resisting air flow openings can be manufactured, by the laser, to have a larger opening area on an internal surface of material than is the opening area on an external surface of the material.

At least one opening can be produced to have tapering shape.

The openings may be produced to be invisible or barely noticeable to the naked eye on at least one surface.

According to a specific aspect the openings are produced in material comprising leather, leather like material, foam material, fabric, rubber and/or plastic.

Openings may be cut by the laser tool into layered material through a plurality of layers in one operation. This can be provided to produce aligned through holes. Openings can also be produced by a laser tool before forming the shape of the article or finalising the article. At least some openings may be produced by a laser tool between forming stages of the article and/or after forming the final shape of the article.

The article and the laser tool can be moved relative to each other. An actuator, preferably a robot, can be arranged for moving the article in at least one stage of manufacture of the openings by the laser tool relative a laser beam produced by the laser tool. An actuator can move the article relative to the laser tool or the laser tool can be moved relative to the article.

Openings may also be produced to provide flexibility and/or weight reduction of an article.

The article may comprise an article of footwear. The openings can be produced in at least one of upper material and sole material of the footwear. The openings may be produced by the laser tool so that they extend through the sole material to a cavity within the sole material. The openings may extend through at least one of an inner sole material, a middle sole material, outer sole material, and footbed material.

Openings can be manufactured by the laser tool substantially on the entire surface area of the upper.

The article may also comprises another wearable items such as one of an item of headwear, an item of clothing, upholstery, a glove, a belt and a bag.

Various exemplifying embodiments of the invention are described below with reference to the attached drawings. Steps and elements explained herein may be reordered, omitted, and combined to form different embodiments and any step indicated as performed may be caused to be performed by another device or module. In the drawings:

Figure 1 shows an example of a wearable article and an apparatus for producing openings therein;

Figures 2 and 3 are flowcharts in accordance with certain embodiments;

Figures 4A, 4B and 4C show an example of material prepared in accordance with an embodiment; Figures 5A, 5B and 5C show examples of apparatuses for producing perforation in a formed upper of footwear;

Figures 6A, 6B and 6C show examples of possible shapes of openings; Figures 7A and 7B show further examples of possible shapes of the openings;

Figure 8 and 9 show examples of openings produced in a sole;

Figure 10 shows an example of perforation in headwear; and

Figure 1 1 shows an example of apparatus for controlling the manufacture of the openings.

In the following certain detailed examples of producing small breathing conduits in various materials, parts and articles by means of laser cutting are described. In the examples a laser tool is used to produce openings in at least a part of an article, such as to a piece of material or component for the article or to an area of an already formed article where the openings are dimensioned to be large enough to allow air to circulate there though and at the same time to be small enough and/or other ways be configured such that they resist water penetration there through in at least one direction.

In some of the detailed examples laser technologies are used in manufacture of at least a part of breathing openings in footwear, for example in shoes or boots.

Figure 1 shows an example of an article of footwear, and more particularly a shoe 10. A shoe typically comprises a sole 1 1 and an upper 12. Various types of lining and padding may also be provided. A perforated area 14 comprising small openings 15 is shown on a side of the upper 12. Perforation can be provided anywhere on the upper, e.g. on the vamp, the facing and/or the quarter. According to a possibility substantially the entire surface area of the upper material is provided with openings described herein. The perforated area 14 can have the function of enabling air to circulate through the material, and thus ventilation inside the shoe. In other words, the openings are large enough to enable breathing there through. At the same time the openings are so small that water cannot penetrate from outside through the upper material due to capillary pressure. More detailed examples of possible arrangement, positioning and shapes of the openings will be described later in this description.

It is noted that although in the schematic presentation of Figure 1 small openings are shown as being visible in area 14, it is possible to produce the opening such that they are invisible to the naked eye, or are barely visible, on the external surface of the upper material.

Appropriate openings can be produced by means of a laser tool 16. A controlled laser beam 17 is directed by the tool to the surface of the upper material. The laser tool is operated such that energy in the beam is sufficient to produce a desired through-hole into the material. Laser cutting technology as such is known and used for various purposes. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high power laser, typically through appropriate optics. The openings can be made into a formed shoe or component thereof by moving the shoe 10, or the formed component, and the laser beam 17 relative to each other. Computer numerical control is used to direct the beam to the material to be perforated, to move the material and/or to control the generation of laser beam in appropriate manner. A focused laser beam directed to the material can melt, burn, vaporise away, flow away by a jet of gas the material cut off, leaving an edge with high quality surface finish.

In use, the laser beam will apply an appropriate amount of energy to the upper material to bum away material therefrom. The burned away material disappears without leaving debris. Laser technologies also enable production of very precise shapes and clean through-holes in a fast and efficient manner, thereby enabling mass production of the perforated areas in high volumes. The openings can have various desired shapes. It is possible to use differently shaped and/or sized openings in different areas of the upper. Because of the possibility to accurately apply material removing energy repeatedly in desired manner to the material it is possible to produce flexibly a great number of shaped openings in the upper material.

Different types of lasers can be used for the perforation. An examples of an appropriate laser for perforating e.g. leather include CO2 laser. Other examples of possible laser technologies include the neodymium (Nd), neodymium yttrium-aluminium-garnet (Nd-YAG) and infra-red lasers.

According to a possibility a 'Galvanometer' type laser can be used where a series of mirrors, driven by electromagnets, are employed for guiding the laser beam. The mirrors can be used to bounce e.g. a CO2 laser beam within a pre- determined area in a very quick fashion. The process can be repeated to ensure that a required depth of cut into the material is achieved.

For example, CO2 lasers arranged to work with a wavelength in the range of 9.4 to 10.6 micrometres can be used for cutting the openings. For certain materials and thicknesses a relatively low powered laser, for example a laser with about 20 kW nominal power, can be used. In addition to wavelength, lasers can be controlled by parameters such as speed of the beam and quantity of energy applied to the object to be treated. Testing can be used to achieve power levels, application times per opening and so forth to produce appropriately sized and/or shaped holes in different materials (e.g. genuine or synthetic leathers, textiles and other fabrics, polyurethanes and other foam materials etc.) of various thicknesses.

The material where the openings are to be cut can comprise leather, synthetic leather, fabrics, foamed materials, plastics, rubber or any other material suitable for footwear or other wearable articles. The material to be worked on can comprise layered structure comprising different materials. An advantage of using the laser cutting tool for perforating the layered material is that tiny but well aligned holes through the stack of material layers can be provided. This can be particularly advantageous in formed articles such as footwear where sheet like material is heavily formed to have a desired shape e.g. of an upper. Laser perforation through the layers after the forming can be used to ensure that the opening are in correct location and align properly through the layers in the final form of the article.

According to a possibility the laser tool is controlled such that the cut does not extend through all layers. For example, a lining layer of a shoe may already be of breathing material, and thus there is no need to extend the cut there through.

Figure 2 shows a flow chart for use of laser in producing openings in accordance with an example. In this example of operation where an article such as an upper having final shape, or a complete shoe, is formed at 30, and the perforation is then provided at 32 on the formed article. In case of footwear, this can be done either at the stage when the upper has not yet been bonded to the sole, or at the finishing stage when the formed shoe is otherwise completed. The perforation can be provided together with other trimming operations at the finishing stage. Also, after forming of the article any excess material can be cut off by the laser. This stage can be performed when the last is still within the formed upper, or after the last has been removed.

A potential advantage of producing the openings after forming i.e. giving shape to the article is that the perforated area or areas can be accurately located in desired position or positions on the article. Also, the openings can be manufactured accurately in desired angles in the formed article. Use of appropriate actuators and control arrangement for moving the laser head and the article relative to each other can allow 360° freedom regarding the positions and angles at which the laser beam can be applied to the article.

Figure 3 shows a flow chart for another example. At step 20 small openings are produced by laser beam in material used for forming shape of an article, for example an upper for a shoe. Openings can also be produced by laser e.g. on a flat or almost flat material sheet before placing thereof in a forming tool, for example on a last or the like, or between forming stages before forming the final shape. The pre-perforated material can then be used at 22 in manufacture of finalised article or a component thereof.

In addition to the breathing openings, other holes such as eyelets and/or decorative features and patterns can be cut to the sheet material by the laser tool. Further, the shape of material pieces needed for manufacture of an article or component thereof, for example an upper, can be cut the by the laser tool.

Further, other openings such as decorative patterns, eyelets and so on can be produced at the same stage and by the same laser tool. The laser tool can also be used to provide accurately placed complex decorative patterns, surface roughening and so on. In the case of uppers or other articles comprising layered materials, it can be easier to produce well aligned through holes of the requisite magnitude if the opening are cut only after the article has got its final shape.

Figures 4A to 4C show a schematic example of an arrangement of small breathing openings on a part of the article. More particularly, Figure 4A shows a cross section of a piece of material 40 along line A to A of Figures 4B and 4C. Figure 4B is a presentation of the piece of material 40 viewed from first side 43 of the material. Figure 4C is a presentation of the same piece of material 40 viewed from the other side 44. If the material is a part of an upper of footwear, the first side can be the external side thereof.

As shown by Figure 4A, the openings 42 can be tapered, and more particularly can have a conical shape so that the opening area is smaller at the first surface 43 than on the second surface 44. As shown by arrows 46 air can circulate through the material, and thus pass from the second surface 44 towards the first surface 43. However, the size of the opening on the first surface prevent penetration of water through the material.

As illustrated by Figure 4B, the openings can be made so small on the first surface 43 that they are no longer discernible by human eye. However, on the other side 44 larger opening areas can be provided, as shown by Figure 4C.

An automaton such as a robot, a cutting centre type laser powered apparatus or another actuator apparatus can be used in manufacture of the openings. The laser beam can be driven along a path with adjustable optics, thereby giving a varying focal length. The component to be treated by the laser tool can be introduced to the beam by the actuator and mechanically moved along a pre-determined path in order to achieve desired cuts. The frequency and power of the laser determine the speed at which the component can be moved in front of the laser tool.

According to a possibility a formed upper, a completed shoe having the final shape thereof, or another work piece is moved relative to the laser cutting tool by a robot or another actuator. Moving the upper, or another work piece, rather than the laser tool is a safety measure ensuring that the laser beam is pointed in a fixed direction rather than swings freely in the three dimensional work space. However, it is possible to move the laser beam and/or both the laser beam and the work piece. Moving the laser can be more efficient e.g. to produce opening in large and/or complex articles, or when perforating sheet material before cutting and/or between forming stages.

An example of use of a robot 50 for the trimming stage of a formed upper 56 is shown in Figure 5A. The robot 50 can comprise a gripping tool 54 arranged to appropriately grip the formed upper. The robot can also be arranged to remove the last from the formed upper. A tool can be provided that grips the last and removes the last from the upper. The robot can grip e.g. a support element, or an empty upper if the last has already been removed, and move the upper relative to the laser beam 59 by the cutting tool 58 in appropriate manner. The robot can advantageously comprise a 7-axis robot.

The robot 50 and the laser tool 58 can be controlled by a controller 52. The controller 52 can be configured to control the cutting operation in accordance with appropriate parameters. The controller 52 can be connected to one of more other controllers.

In Figure 5B a laser tool 58 is attached to a robot 50 controlled by a controller 52. The robot is arranged to move the tool 58 such that a laser beam generated by the tool 58 relative to the upper 56 of the shoe 57. The movement of the laser tool can be controlled such that the laser beam 5 is applied on the upper material in an optimal angle in the given location where an opening is to be produced.

In addition to the ventilation openings the robot can be used to trim the upper with desired shapes, cuts and patterns. For example, the final shape, eyelets and/or other openings such as decorative holes, tongue, facing parts of the vamp, and decorative patterns can be provided by laser cutting and the robot. An example of this is shown in Figure 5C where a robot 50 controlled by a control apparatus 52 moves laser tool 58, and thus laser beam 59, relative to shoe 57 to cut openings on the upper 56.

In accordance with the example of Figures 4A to C the openings can have circular cross section and a conical shape. Other shapes are also possible. Figures 6A and 6B show other examples of possible differently sized opening areas on the opposing surfaces of material 60. In Figure 6A two differently sized bores 62 and 64 are provided. In Figure 6B the tapering is provided on one side of the opening 64.

Figure 6C shows an example of a small opening 66 with straight cylindrical shape extending through the material layer 60.

According to a possibility non-circular openings can be produced. Figures

7A and 7B show examples of oval and banana shaped openings 70 and 72, respectively.

Figure 8 shows a cross sectional view of a shoe 10 comprising a sole 1 1 and an upper 12. The Figure illustrates an example where small openings 85 are produced by a laser tool 86 through sole material. The sole material is bound to upper material 84 such that a bended section 83 of the sole extends along the lower part of the sides of the upper material 84. Laser beam 87 is directed to the bended section and controlled such that small openings 85 are cut through the sole material and also through the upper material 84.

The laser beam can also be used to cut openings that extend through any layers of lining, padding and so forth. In some applications breathing lining materials may be provided, and the laser beam can be controlled to cut the opening through the sole and upper materials only, without cutting into the lining.

Figure 9 shows a cross section of another sole related example. In this example a sole 1 1 comprises an outer sole 96 and an inner sole 95. An air cavity 90 is provided between the inner and outer sole materials. Laser tool has been used to cut small openings 91 in the outer sole material from the side of the outer sole 96 into the cavity 90 such that the cavity can breathe but water cannot penetrate into the cavity.

A second set of small openings 92 can be produced by laser through the inner sole 95 for connecting the inner part of a shoe and the cavity 90. An advantage of use of small openings described herein is that even if water gets into the shoe (i.e. on the side 93 of the inner sole 95) the water is prevented from penetrating into the cavity whilst air circulation through the underfoot cavity is possible.

The openings 91 , 92 can be straight or shaped cuts as discussed above. The openings 92 and/or 91 can be manufactured such that the opening area is larger on the cavity surface 94 than on the other surface 93, 97 of the sole material. Other shapes improving air circulation and water penetration resistance can also be manufactured by the laser tool into the sole material. The openings can be cut before or after bonding the inner and outer soles together. The laser tool may also be used for the bonding process.

Laser cutting of small conduits can be applied to any part of footwear. For example, in addition to the above mentioned inner and outer soles, a laser tool can be used to cut small opening to mid-soles, footbeds and so on. In accordance with an example, to facilitate circulation of air within a shoe through a network of channels in a midsole and a footbed, for example an in-sock with a contoured foam underneath it (e.g. polyurethane or another foam material), holes of various sizes are provided through the in-sock so that the air can circulate under the foot. Laser cutting can be used to mitigate the problem with some of foam materials in that they are difficult to punch holes through them. Laser perforation can also be used to cut holes through the footbed and foam material after these have been bonded together, typically in a moulding process. A benefit is that the cutting can be done in the contoured form, thus producing well aligned small openings underneath the foot.

Figure 10 shows an example of another wearable article, and more particularly a cap 104, and production of small openings 102 therein by a laser tool 100. The opening can be produced on a specific area or areas, or on entire surface area of the cap.

It shall be appreciated that headwear of Figure 10 is only a non-limiting example of the possible articles that can be perforated by a laser tool according to the herein described principles. Laser cutting can be applied to other articles, for example gloves, belts, bags, clothing, linings, upholstery and so forth.

In addition to improving air circulation by openings that are small enough to prevent water from penetrating there through, such small openings can be manufactured by a laser tool for other reasons such as to improve flexibility and/or reduce weight of materials and articles. The increased flexibility and/or reduced weight can be provided by openings manufactured so that that are invisible or almost invisible to the naked eye. Cutting by laser shaped openings where the opening area external side of the article is smaller than on the internal side can be used to enhance this advantage.

The laser cutting process can be controlled by one or more controller units. Figure 11 shows an example of control apparatus. The control apparatus 110 can be for example integrated with, coupled to and/or otherwise controlling the laser tool, a robot or another actuator device. For this purpose the control apparatus comprises at least one memory 111 , at least one data processing unit 112, 113 and an input/output interface 114. Via the interface the control apparatus can be coupled to the devices it is indented to control and/or a communication system for communication with other data processing apparatus, for example a manufacturing and/or stock management control system. The control apparatus can be configured to execute an appropriate software code to provide the control functions.

While various aspects of the invention may be illustrated and described as block diagrams, flow charts, or using some other schematic pictorial representation, it is well understood that these blocks, apparatus, systems, techniques or methods described herein may be implemented in, as non-limiting examples, hardware, software, firmware, special purpose circuits or logic, general purpose hardware or controller or other computing devices, or some combination thereof.

The foregoing description provides by way of exemplary and non-limiting examples a full and informative description of exemplary embodiments of the invention. However, various modifications and adaptations may become apparent to those skilled in the relevant arts in view of the foregoing description, when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings and the appended claims. All such and similar modifications of the teachings of this invention will still fall within the spirit and scope of this invention.