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Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR JOINING AN ANNULAR BAND TO A KNITTED ARTICLE COMPRISING A BODY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/185659
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The method for assembling a fabric annular band (FA) and a knitted article (M) having a body and two leg pieces comprises a step of loading the annular band onto a loading form (7) with a loading surface. The annular band is loaded onto the loading form so that the first hem of the annular band is near the first edge of the loading surface. Then, a portion of the body of the knitted article (M) is loaded around the loading form (7) above the annular band (FA), with the body open edge aligned with the first hem (O1) of the annular band (FA). Lastly, the first hem (O1) of the annular band (FA) and the open edge of the body are joined together and the garment comprising the knitted article with the annular band sewn thereto is removed from the loading form (7).

Inventors:
RUSTIONI MIRCO (IT)
DI VINCENZO FRANCO (IT)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2021/056117
Publication Date:
September 23, 2021
Filing Date:
March 10, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GOLDEN LADY CO SPA (IT)
International Classes:
D04B9/40; D05B23/00; D05B33/00; D05B33/02; D05B35/06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MANNUCCI, Michele et al. (IT)
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Claims:
Claims

1. A method for assembling a fabric annular band (FA), comprising a first hem (01) and a second hem (02), and a knitted article (M), having a body (C) and two leg pieces (G), said body ending with an open edge (MA) intended to be joined to the annular band (FA) along the first hem (01); the method comprising the following steps: loading an annular band (FA) onto a loading form (7) having an approximately cylindrical outer loading surface (75) extending around a central rotation axis (C-C) of the loading form (7), said loading surface (75) being delimited between a first border (75.1) and a second border (75.2); wherein the annular band (FA) is loaded onto the loading form (7) so that the first hem (01) of the annular band (FA) is near the first border (75.1) of the loading surface; loading a portion of the body (C) of the knitted article (M) around the loading form (7) superimposed on the annular band (FA), with the open edge (MA) aligned with the first hem (01) of the annular band (FA); joining together the first hem (01) of the annular band (FA) and the open edge (MA) of the body (C); and unloading, from the loading form (7), the knitted article (M) with the annular band (FA) sewn thereto.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of loading the annular band (FA) onto the loading form (7) comprises the following steps: inserting a stretching device (21) into the annular band (FA); engaging the annular band (FA) with the stretching device (21) and stretching the annular band (FA) by means of the stretching device (21), creating a space inside the annular band; moving the stretching device (21), onto which the stretched annular band (FA) is applied, and the loading form (7) towards each other, so that the loading form (7) is placed in the inner space delimited by the annular band (FA); transferring the annular band (FA) from the stretching device (21) to the loading form (7), making the annular band adhere to the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7); and moving the stretching device away from the loading form (7).

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising the following steps: engaging the annular band (FA) by an engaging member (25), which adheres to an outer surface of the annular band (FA) at at least two points spaced from each other; lifting the annular band (FA) by the engaging member (25), causing the annular band (FA) to open through gravity; inserting a pair of approximately parallel positioning rollers (27) into the annular band (FA); stretching the annular band (FA) by moving the positioning rollers (27) away from each other and releasing the annular band from the engaging member (25); and after having inserted the stretching device (21) into the annular band (FA), between the positioning rollers (27), transferring the annular band (FA) from the pair of positioning rollers (27) to the stretching device (21).

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the step of engaging the annular band (FA) by the engaging member (25) comprises the step of making the outer surface of the annular band (FA) adhere to an adhesive tape (55) co-acting with the engaging member (25) or being part thereof; and wherein the step of releasing the annular band (FA) from the engaging member (25) preferably comprises a step of moving the annular band (FA) relative to the adhesive tape (55).

5. The method of claim 3 or 4, further comprising a step of angularly positioning the annular band (FA) onto the two positioning rollers (27) by synchronously rotating the two positioning rollers (27) and detecting a desired angular position of the annular band (FA) by means of a mark (MX) applied to the annular band (FA) and a sensor (89) adapted to detect the mark (MX).

6. The method of one or more of claims 2 to 5, wherein the step of transferring the annular band (FA) from the stretching device (21) to the loading form (7) comprises the steps of: positioning a plurality of pads (69), radially movable towards the axis (C-C) of the loading form (7), around the stretching device (21) and outside the annular band (FA) engaged by said stretching device; radially moving the pads (69) towards the loading surface (75), pressing, by means of the pads (69), the annular band (FA) against the loading surface; and removing the stretching device (21) from the annular band (FA) by moving the stretching device (21) away from the loading form, while the annular band (FA) is kept on the loading surface (75) by the pressing pads (69).

7. The method of one or more of claims 2 to 6, wherein the step of stretching the annular band (FA) by means of the stretching device (21) comprises the steps of: inserting into the annular band (FA) a plurality of stretching elements (61) adjacent to one another; and moving the stretching elements (61) away from each other, spacing them from one another around an axis of the stretching device (21), with the annular band (FA) externally surrounding the stretching elements (61) and adhering thereto.

8. The method of one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the step of loading the portion of the body (C) of the knitted article (M) around the loading form (7) comprises the steps of: inserting the leg pieces (G) of the knitted article (M) in a suction opening (105) approximately concentric with the loading surface (7); and turning the portion of the body (C) around the loading form (7) inside out, and applying it to the annular band (FA) loaded onto the loading surface (75).

9. The method of claim 8, further comprising the step of blocking the annular band (FA) against the loading form (7) by a blocking pad (97), to keep the annular band (FA) in position relative to the loading surface (75).

10. The method of one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the step of joining the first hem (01) of the annular band (FA) to the open edge (MA) of the body (C) comprises the step of rotating the loading form (7) around the axis (C-C) of the loading form (7) and sewing the open edge (MA) of the body (C) to the annular band (FA) by a sewing machine (111) co-acting with the loading form (7).

11. The method of claim 10, wherein, during the rotation of the loading form (7), the annular band (FA) and the body (C) are kept blocked relative to the loading form (7) by means of a plurality of pliers (117) arranged circumferentially around the loading surface (75) and pressing the annular band (FA) and the body (C) onto the loading surface (75); and wherein the pliers (117) are preferably motorized and drive the loading form (7) into rotation around the axis (C-C) thereof.

12. The method of one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the step of unloading the knitted article (M) from the loading form (7) with the annular band (FA) sewn thereto comprises the steps of: inserting a pair of removing members inside a side wall (73) of the loading form (7) that defines the loading surface (75); moving the removing members (139) away from each other by passing through openings (77) in the loading surface (75), so as to stretch the knitted article (M) and the annular band (FA) on the removing members (139); axially moving the removing members (13) and the loading form (7) away from each other, thus removing the knitted article (M) and the annular band (FA) from the loading form (FA).

13. An apparatus for joining a fabric annular band (FA), comprising a first hem (01) and a second hem (02), to a knitted article (M), having a body (C) and two leg pieces (G), said body ending with an open edge (MA) intended to be joined to the annular band (FA) along the first hem (01) of the annular band (FA); the apparatus comprising: at least a loading form (7) having an approximately cylindrical outer loading surface (75) extending around a central rotation axis (C-C) of the loading form (7), the loading surface (75) being delimited between a first border (75.1) and a second border (75.2); a stretching device (21) adapted to receive and to stretch the annular band (FA); the stretching device (21) and the loading form (7) being movable one with respect to the other so as to position the stretching device (21) around the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7) and to release the annular band (FA) onto the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7); a pick-up device (15) adapted to take individual annular bands (FA) from a storage space (11) and to load them onto the stretching device (21); a sewing machine (111) adapted to co-act with the loading form (7) to sew together an annular band (FA) and a knitted article (M) that are arranged on the loading form (7); wherein the loading form (7) and the sewing machine (111) are configured to perform sewing by rotating the loading form (7) around the axis (C-C) thereof; and a removing device for removing the knitted article with the annular band (FA) sewn thereto from the loading form (7).

14. The apparatus of claim 13, comprising a moving member (5), onto which the loading form (7) is arranged, the moving member being adapted to move the loading form (7) sequentially through a plurality of stations comprising, one following the other: a loading station (3) for loading the annular bands (FA) onto the loading form (7), where the pick-up device (15) is provided; a loading station (91) for loading the knitted article (M); a sewing station (107); an unloading station (135) for unloading the knitted article (M) and the annular band (FA) sewn together.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein further loading forms (7) are arranged on the moving member (5), the loading forms being equal to one another and moving selectively and sequentially through the plurality of stations.

16. The apparatus of claim 14 or 15, wherein the moving member is constituted by a carousel (5) rotating around a vertical axis (A- A).

17. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 16, wherein the pick up device (15) comprises: an engaging member (25) adapted to engage an annular band (FA) in the storage space (11); and a pair of approximately parallel positioning rollers (27) having variable center- to-center distance; wherein the engaging member (25) and the pair of positioning rollers (27) are adapted to move relative to each another so as to insert the positioning rollers (27) into an annular band (FA) engaged by the engaging member (25).

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the positioning rollers (27) are motorized and rotate around respective rotation axes.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, comprising a sensor (89) adapted to detect a mark (MX) on the annular band (FA), wherein said positioning rollers (27) are driven into rotation by means of a motorization system (29) controlled through a signal generated by the sensor (89), to position the annular band (FA) angularly relative to the positioning rollers (27).

20. The apparatus of one or more of claims 17 to 19, wherein the engaging member (25) comprises a positioning system for positioning a portion of adhesive tape (55), unwound from a reel (51) of adhesive tape carried by the engaging member (25), the adhesive tape being a gripping element for the annular bands (FA).

21. The apparatus of one or more of claims 17 to 20, wherein the engaging member (25) is controlled to move towards, and away from, the storage space (11) containing the annular bands (FA), to take individual annular bands (FA) from the storage space (11) and put them in front of the positioning rollers (27).

22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the engaging member (25) and the positioning rollers (27) are carried by a slide (13) movable to move towards and away from the stretching device (21); wherein the positioning rollers (27) are movable parallel to the axes thereof relative to the slide (13); and wherein the slide (13) is preferably movable according to a horizontal direction and the storage space (11) is provided below the trajectory of the slide.

23. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 22, wherein the stretching device (21) comprises a plurality of stretching elements (61) configured to take alternatively : a mutual adjacent position, wherein they are arranged adjacent to one another near an axis of the stretching device (21); and a mutual spaced position, wherein they are arranged spaced form one another around the axis of the stretching device (21); the stretching elements (61) being adapted, in the mutual adjacent position, to be inserted into an annular band (FA) engaged by means of a pick-up device (15), and the stretching elements (61) being adapted, in the mutual spaced position, to keep an annular band (FA) stretched, thus forming, inside the annular band (FA), enough space to position the annular band (FA) and the stretching elements (61) concentrically around the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7).

24. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 23, wherein the stretching device (21) is provided with a transferring movement between the pick-up device and the loading form (7); and with a rotation movement around an axis orthogonal to the axis of the stretching device and orthogonal to the direction of the transferring movement, so as to face selectively the pick-up device (15) and the loading form (7).

25. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 24, comprising a pressing member (23), adapted to be interposed between the stretching device (21) and the loading form (7) and to move parallel to the axis (C-C) of the loading form (7) to take a position approximately concentric with the loading form (7) and with the stretching device (21), when the stretching device (21) and the loading form (7) are in a mutual position where the annular band (FA) is transferred from the stretching device (21) to the loading form (7); wherein the pressing member (23) comprises a plurality of annularly arranged pads (69) adapted to press an annular band (FA), engaged by the stretching device (21), against the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7) when the stretching device is arranged around the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7).

26. The apparatus of one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the loading form (7) has a suction opening (105) surrounded by the loading surface (75).

27. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 26, wherein the loading form (7) is supported rotatable around the axis (C-C) thereof by a bearing structure, and wherein a stop device (83) is provided for stopping the rotation, adapted to prevent selectively the rotation of the loading form (7) around the axis (C-C) thereof.

28. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 27, further comprising a block pad (97) adapted to act against the loading form (7) in a loading station (91) where the knitted article (M) is loaded onto the loading form (7), the block pad (97) being adapted to keep the annular band (FA) in position onto the loading form (7) when the knitted article (M) is loaded onto said loading form.

29. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 28, wherein pliers (117) are associated with the sewing machine (111), the pliers being arranged circumferentially around an axis thereof and being adapted to be arranged circumferentially around the loading form (7), when the loading form (7) is positioned coaxially with the pliers (117), and to press against the loading surface (75) of the loading form (7) to keep the body (C) and the annular band (FA) in position on the loading surface (75).

30. The apparatus of claim 29, wherein the pliers (117) are motorized to rotate around the rotation axis thereof and to drive the loading form (7) into rotation integrally with the same pliers while sewing.

31. The apparatus of one or more of claims 13 to 30, wherein the removing device comprises a pair of removing members (139) movable relative to each other to move towards, and away from, each other and movable relative to the loading form (7) to be inserted inside a volume surrounded by the loading surface (75); and wherein the loading surface (75) has openings (77) for allowing the removing members (139) to move from the inside of the volume surrounded by the loading surface (75) to the outside of the loading surface.

Description:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR JOINING AN ANNULAR BAND TO A KNITTED ARTICLE COMPRISING A BODY

DESCRIPTION

TECHNICAL FIELD [0001] The present invention relates to the machines for manufacturing knitted articles, in particular for manufacturing knitted garments, comprising a body, a pair of leg pieces and an annular band, especially an elastic band sewn to the body.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] Among the typical garments including a pair of leg pieces and a body, which ends with a typically elastic annular band surrounding the waist when the garment is worn, there are footed and footless tights and pantyhose. According to some modem production methods, body and leg pieces are manufactured in a single knitting process using a circular knitting machine. Typically, an elastic band and a knitted article, comprising the body and the leg pieces, are manufactured separately, and then sewn together.

[0003] According to other known methods, the knitted article is produced by separately knitting two tubular pieces, which are then partially cut in correspondence of an end thereof and sewn to form the knitted article. Each tubular piece has an elastic edge. The elastic edges of two tubular pieces are cut and then sewn together to form an elastic band that surround the user’ s waist when the garment is worn.

[0004] The step of joining the annular band and the knitted article is complex and time consuming. For the purpose of making this production step faster, the WO-A- 2016/157055 discloses an apparatus facilitating the manual assembling operations. This prior art apparatus comprises a loading form and a stretching device, which are brought in mutual coaxial position and move towards each other, thus bringing the loading form inside a space delimited by the stretching device. To facilitate the assembling operations for joining the elastic annular band, or strip, and the knitted article, this prior art apparatus provides for the following steps. The knitted article is manually loaded onto the form, so that a body portion wraps a side loading surface of the loading form. An annular strip, or band, is manually loaded onto the stretching device. Then, the stretching device expands for stretching the annular band. Afterwards the form, onto which the knitted article has been loaded, is inserted inside the annular band. The stretching device is then removed, leaving the annular band adhering around the portion of knitted article surrounding and wrapping the loading form.

[0005] In the above mentioned document, neither devices allowing loading the band onto the stretching device are disclosed, nor devices for unloading the finished garment obtained by sewing the annular band to the body of the knitted article. Nor sewing systems are disclosed.

[0006] The prior art apparatus assists the operator only to a limited degree in simplifying some of the assembling operations for joining the annular band and the knitted article.

[0007] Moreover, a drawback of the method disclosed in the above mentioned prior art document is that both the annular band and the knitted article shall be turned inside out before being loaded onto the stretching device and the loading form. In fact, the annular band and the knitted article are manufactured using a knitting machine, typically a circular knitting machine. Once knitted, they have a right side and a reverse side. When exiting the knitting machine, both the semi-finished products have the right side facing outwards and the reverse side facing inwards. The finished garment is worn with the right sides of the annular band and of the knitted article comprised of body and leg pieces facing outwards. Sewing shall be performed so the seam is not visible on the right side of the garment, i.e. so that the seam is inside. For sewing the annular band and the knitted article together with the seam on the reverse side of the garment using the apparatus disclosed in WO2016/157055, advance turning both the annular band and the knitted article inside out is necessary. Otherwise, the seam will be outside, and will be visible on the right side of the finished garment. The need of turning both the annular band and the knitted article inside out makes the assembling process performed using the known apparatus particularly complex, also hindering an efficient automation of the same process.

[0008] There is therefore a need for more efficient method and apparatus for sewing, i.e. assembling, the annular band and the body of a knitted article together, overcoming or at least alleviating one or more drawbacks of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] According to an aspect, a method is provided for joining a fabric annular band, comprising a first hem and a second hem, to a knitted article having a body and two leg pieces, the body ending with an open edge intended to be joined to the annular band along the first hem of the annular band. The method comprises the following steps in sequence: a) firstly, an annular band is loaded onto a loading form having an outer loading surface extending around an axis of the loading form, the loading surface being delimited between a first border and a second border. The annular band is loaded onto the loading form so that the first hem of the annular band is near the first border of the loading surface; b) then, a portion of the body of the knitted article is loaded around the loading form on the annular band, with the open edge aligned with the first hem of the annular band; c) afterwards the first hem of the annular band and the open edge of the body are joined together; d) lastly, the knitted article with the annular band sewn thereto is removed from the loading form.

[0010] As it will be clearly apparent from the detailed description of embodiments, this method allows to load the knitted article and the annular band onto the form without the need of turning them inside out with respect to how they are manufactured by the knitting machine. The arrangement and the step sequence is such that the seam between the annular band and the knitted article is located on the reverse side of the finished garment.

[0011] Essentially, thanks to the method outlined above it is possible to have a finished garment with the seam on the inner surface thereof without the need of turning band and knitted article inside out beforehand, and therefore in significantly shorter times than those required by the prior art methods.

[0012] Further features and embodiments of the method according to the invention are set out in the attached claims, which form an integral part of the present description, and in the detailed description below of exemplary embodiments.

[0013] In some embodiments, the step of loading the annular band onto the loading form comprises, in turn, the following steps: inserting a stretching device into the annular band; engaging the annular band with the stretching device and stretching the annular band by means of the stretching device, thus creating a space inside the annular band; moving the stretching device, onto which the stretched annular band is applied, and the loading form towards each other, so that the loading form is placed in the inner space delimited by the annular band; transferring the annular band from the stretching device to the loading form, making the annular band adhere to the loading surface of the loading form; and moving the stretching device away from the loading form.

[0014] The following additional steps may be also provided: engaging the annular band by an engaging member, which adheres to an outer surface of the annular band at at least two points spaced from each other; lifting the annular band by the engaging member, causing the annular band to open by gravity; inserting a pair of approximately parallel positioning rollers into the annular band; stretching the annular band by moving the positioning rollers away from each other and releasing the annular band from the engaging member; and after having inserted the stretching device into the annular band, between the positioning rollers, transferring the annular band from the pair of positioning rollers to the stretching device.

[0015] The step of engaging the annular band by the engaging member may comprise the step of making the outer surface of the annular band adhere to an adhesive tape co acting with the engaging member or being part thereof; and the step of releasing the annular band from the engaging member may preferably comprise a step of moving the annular band with respect to the adhesive tape. [0016] In some embodiments, a step is provided of angularly positioning the annular band on the two positioning rollers. This can be achieved, for example, by synchronously rotating the two positioning rollers and detecting a desired angular position of the annular band by means of a reference mark applied to the annular band and a sensor adapted to detect the mark.

[0017] According to a further aspect, an apparatus is provided for joining a fabric annular band, comprising a first hem and a second hem, and a knitted article, having a body and two leg pieces, the body ending with an open edge intended to be joined to the annular band along the first hem of the annular band. The apparatus comprises at least a loading form having an outer loading surface extending around an axis of the loading form, the loading surface being delimited between a first border and a second border. To increase the apparatus productivity, a plurality of loading forms is preferably provided, carried by an equipment transferring them sequentially through a plurality of stations. The equipment may be a carousel, turning around a vertical rotation axis, for instance.

[0018] Furthermore, the apparatus advantageously comprises a stretching device adapted to receive and to stretch the annular band. The stretching device and the loading form are movable one with respect to the other so as to position the stretching device around the loading surface of the loading form and to release the annular band onto the loading surface of the loading form. A pick-up device is also provided, adapted to take individual annular bands from a storage space and to load them automatically onto the stretching device.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

[0019] The invention will be better understood by following the description below and the attached drawing, showing a non-limiting embodiment of the invention. More specifically, in the drawing: Figs.1 A and IB schematically show a garment in the form of tights, comprising an annular band FA and a knitted article M, illustrated before and after having been joined together by the apparatus described herein;

Fig.2 shows a plan view of an apparatus according to the invention;

Figs.3A and 3B are isometric views of the apparatus of Fig.2, where the loading station for loading the annular bands has been omitted;

Fig.4 is an isometric view of the annular band loading station; Fig.5 is a side view of the annular band loading station;

Fig.6 is an isometric view of the pick-up device for taking the annular bands, arranged in the loading station;

Fig.7 is a side view of the pick-up device of Fig.6;

Fig.8 is a front view of the pick-up device of Figs.6 and 7;

Figs.8 A and 8B are isometric views, from the top and the bottom, of the rollers of the pick-up device and the respective support slide;

Fig.9 is an isometric view of the stretching device and of a pressure member for transferring the annular bands from the stretching device to the loading form;

Figs.10, 11 and 12 show an operative sequence of taking an annular band from the storage space by the pick-up device of Figs.6 to 8;

Fig.13 is an isometric view of the pick-up device positioned for transferring an annular band to a pair of motorized rollers;

Fig.14 is an isometric view of the motorized rollers of Fig.13 in mutual spaced position for preparing the annular band to be transferred onto the stretching device;

Figs.15 and 16 are isometric views of operative steps for transferring the annular band from the stretching device to a loading form;

Figs.17 and 18 are front and rear isometric views of a loading form;

Fig.19 is an isometric view with some parts cut away, showing the relative position of loading form, stretching device and member during the step of transferring the annular band from the stretching device to the loading form;

Fig.20 is an isometric view analogous to that of Fig.17, showing the annular band loaded onto the loading form;

Fig.21 is an isometric view of blocking pads for blocking the annular band on the loading form during the step of loading the knitted article;

Fig. 22 is an isometric view analogous to that of Fig.21, showing the relative position of pads and loading form, with the annular band loaded onto the loading form;

Figs.23 and 24 are isometric views of the knitted article being loaded onto the loading form;

Fig.25 is a cross-section of the loading form, onto which an annular band and a knitted article are loaded;

Figs.26 and 27 are front and rear isometric views of a gripping unit in the sewing station;

Fig.28 shows a cross-section of the gripping unit of Figs.26 and 27; Fig.29 is an isometric view of the sewing station with a loading form engaged by the gripping unit;

Figs.30(A) to 30(H) show a sequence of the sewing operations;

Fig.31 is an isometric view of the unloading station where the garment is removed from the loading form; and

Figs.32(A) to 32(S) show a sequence of the unloading operations for removing the garment from the loading form.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN EMBODIMENT

[0020] Figs.1 A, IB schematically illustrate a garment, in the form of tights, constituted by a knitted article M and an annular band FA, that are knitted separately and then joined by the apparatus described herein. More in particular, in Fig.lA the annular band FA and the knitted article M are shown separated from each other, before being sewn, whilst in Fig. IB these two components are shown assembled to form the finished garment I. [0021] The annular band FA comprises a first hem 01 and a second hem 02. The knitted article M comprises two leg pieces G and a body C. The body ends with an open edge MA, which shall be joined, namely sewn, to one of the two hems of the annular band FA, and in particular to the first hem 01. After having sewn the annular band FA to the knitted article M, a garment I is obtained, with a sewing line LC joining the open edge MA of the body G to the hem 01 of the annular band FA. The letters D and R indicate, for both the annular band A and the knitted article M, the right side and the reverse side, i.e. the surface (D) that shall remain outside and the surface (R) that shall remain inside when the garment I is worn. The sewing line LC shall be done so that the seam is inside the garment I. It should be understood that the garment I schematically shown in Fig.l is only an example, and other garments can be manufactured with the method and the apparatus disclosed herein, for example garment with leg pieces significantly shorter than those illustrated in Fig.1.

[0022] With reference to Figs.2 to 4, the apparatus 1 for sewing the annular band FA and the knitted article M together comprises two main parts, constituted by a loading station 3 configured to load annular bands onto loading forms, and a moving member 5, onto which more loading forms 7, equal to one another, are arranged and transferred in sequence through the loading station 3 and through further stations for the operations of loading the knitted article, sewing it to the band and unloading the garment. In the illustrated embodiment, the moving member 5 is configured like a carousel adapted to rotate in stepped fashion around a vertical axis A-A. In other embodiments, the loading forms 7 are moved by a different moving member, for example a flexible endless conveyor.

[0023] For the sake of simplicity of drawing, the loading station 3 for loading the annular bands is represented only schematically in Fig.2, and has been omitted in Figs.3A, 3B. The details of the loading station 3, as well as the operation thereof, are illustrated in Figs.4 to 16.

[0024] In the illustrated embodiment, seven loading forms 7 and seven stations are provided, the loading forms 7 being sequentially transferred through the stations by the carousel 5. It should be understood that the number of stations and the number of loading forms 7 may be different than that illustrated.

The loading station 3

[0025] With reference to Figs.4 to 16, the loading station 3 having the function of loading annular bands onto one of the loading forms 7, with which the carousel 5 is provided, will be now described in detail. The cycle of the operations performed by the loading station will be described later. With reference to Figs.17 to 33, the various stations arranged after the loading station will be described, as well as the operations performed in these stations.

[0026] The loading station 3 comprises a bearing structure 9 arranged radially outside the carousel 5. A storage space 11 is provided on the bearing structure 9 for storing stacks of annular bands FA (Figs.10-13). The stacks are adjacent to one another, to increase the capacity of the storage space 11. On the bearing structure 9 a slide 13 is provided, which carries a pick-up device 15, adapted to take individual annular bands FA from the storage space 11 and to transfer them to a stretching device, described below, which loads the annular bands FA onto the respective loading forms 7. The reference number 17 indicates a guide, along which the slide 13 is movable according to the double arrow P3. The movement according to fl3 allows taking annular bands FA from one or the other of more stacks P arranged in the storage space 11 and transferring the individual bands FA, taken by the pick-up device, to the stretching device.

[0027] On the bearing structure 9 a second guide 19 is fastened, along which a stretching device 21 and a pressure member 23 are movable, independently of each other, according to the double arrows f21 and f23. Furthermore, the stretching device 21 is rotatable around a vertical axis (D-D, see Fig.19), orthogonal to the horizontal guide 19, as schematically represented in Figs.5, 9, 15 and 16 by the double arrow f21x. Details of the stretching device 21 and of the pressure member 23 will be described below. [0028] The pick-up device 15 is shown in details in Figs.4, 6, 7, 8, 8A and 8B. In the illustrated embodiment, the pick-up device 15 comprises an engaging member 25, adapted to engage individual annular bands FA from the storage space 11, and a pair of motorized positioning rollers 27, which receive the annular bands FA from the engaging member 25 and transfer them to the stretching device 21 as described below. The positioning rollers 27 are adapted to rotate in concordant direction, each around the respective horizontal axis B-B. In the illustrated embodiment, each positioning roller 27 is driven into rotation by a respective motor, for example typically an electronically controlled electric motor, indicated with the reference number 29.

[0029] The two positioning rollers 27 are movable along the direction f27x so as to move towards and away from each other, thus changing the mutual center-to-center distance. In Figs.6, 8, 8A, and 8B the center-to-center distance of the rollers 27 is minimum. The rollers 27 are also movable according to the double arrow f27y parallel to the guide 17. The movement according to f27y may be independent of the movement according to P3 of the slide 13, if the rollers 27 are supported independently of the slide 13. The rollers 27 may be for example supported by a slide 31 movable according to f27y along a guide 33 integral to the guide 17 and parallel thereto. The slide 31 carries a guide 35 orthogonal to the guide 33, on which support carriages 37 slide, supporting the rollers 27 and the respective motors 29, to allow the rollers 27 to move according to f27x. The movement of the rollers 27 and of the respective carriages 37 and motors 29 according to f27x is imparted, symmetrically for the two rollers 27, by a pair of linear actuators 38, for example pneumatic cylinder-piston actuators. [0030] On the slide 31 an actuator is also carried, controlling the movement according to f27x of the carriages 37 and of the respective positioning rollers 27. The slide 31 moves forwards and backwards along the direction fl3 together with the slide 13. The slide 31 also moves according to the double arrow f27y with respect to the slide 13, so that the positioning rollers 27 can translate parallel to the guides 17 and 33 with respect to the slide 13, for purposes that will be explained below. In Fig.8A, the reference number 39 indicates an actuator controlling the movement according to f27y of the rollers 27, and of the slide 31 carrying them, with respect to the slide 13.

[0031] The engaging member 25 is carried by the slide 13 and is therefore movable according to the double arrow P3. In the illustrated embodiment, the engaging member 25 comprises a head 41, vertically movable according to the double arrow f41 by means of a mechanism with rack 41 and pinion 45, wherein the pinion 45 is rotated by an actuator, for example an electric motor 47. The head 43 carries an unwinding reel 51 and a rewinding reel 53 for respectively unwinding and rewinding an adhesive tape 55. The reference number 49 indicates a motor driving the rewinding reel 53 into rotation. The path of the adhesive tape 55 extends around two lower guide rollers 57 of small dimensions. The segment of adhesive tape 55 comprised between the lower guide rollers 57 is used to engage by adhesion the first annular band FA positioned on one of the stacks P stored in the storage space 11, as it will be described with reference to the sequence of Figs.10, 11 and 12.

[0032] The stretching device 21 and the pressure member 23 mentioned above are illustrated in detail in Figs.9, 15 and 16, where the adjacent members have been removed for the sake of clarity of representation. The unit formed by the stretching device 21 and the pressure member 23 is shown in Figs.9 and 16 from the side of the carousel 5, whilst in Fig.15 it is shown from the opposite side, i.e. from the side of the positioning rollers 27.

[0033] As it is clearly apparent from Figs.9, 14, 15 and 16, the stretching device 21 comprises a ring 59, to which stretching elements 61 are fastened. In the illustrated embodiment, the stretching elements are in the form of fingers 61, connected to the ring 59 through pivoting levers 63. As shown in Fig.14, the fingers 61 are arranged in close position. Here, the fingers 61 take a position of maximum reciprocal closeness and are arranged near an axis of the stretching device 21, i.e. an axis of the ring 59. The fingers 61 are moved apart to a mutually spaced position (Figs.9, 15, 16) for stretching an annular band FA arranged on the stretching device 21. The movement of the fingers 59 towards and away from one another is controlled by an actuator 65 (Fig.9) of the stretching device 21.

[0034] The pressure member 23 comprises a ring 67 that can take a position coaxial with the ring 59 of the stretching device 21. The ring 67 of the pressure member 23 carries a plurality of pushing elements or pads 69 circumferentially arranged around an axis of the ring 67 and radially movable, for example controlled by a plurality of pneumatic cylinder-piston actuators 71 or in other way. In the illustrated example, an actuator 71 is provided for each pad 69.

[0035] The loading station 3 described above is used to load individual annular bands FA onto each of the seven loading forms 7 mounted on the carousel 5. The loading forms 7 are preferably equal to one another and one of them is shown alone in Figs.17 and 18.

[0036] The loading form 7 has a substantially circular extension around a central rotation axis C-C. Each loading form 7 has a disc-shaped portion, from which a preferably approximately cylindrical side wall extends, which externally defines an outer surface 75, also referred to as loading surface 75. The cylindrical wall 73 is interrupted, in two diametrically opposite points, by a pair of recesses or openings 77, which interrupt the loading surface 75. The loading surface 75 has a first border 75.1 and a second border 75.2.

[0037] The loading form 7 is supported idle, for example through suitable support bearings, on a suction tube 79. The suction tube 79 is fastened to the carousel 5 through a respective upright 81. The reference number 83 indicates a stop device for stopping the loading form 7 to prevent it from rotating around the axis C-C with respect to the suction tube 79. The suction tube 79 has an upper connection 85 internally provided with a perforated sheet or a mesh filter 87. The structure of the loading form 7 and the way in which it is supported idle on the lower end of the tube 79 may be better understood from the isometric view and partial cross-section of Fig.19.

[0038] Having described the structure of the loading station 3, here below the process will be described, according to which an annular band FA is loaded onto the form 7 for being subsequently sewn to a knitted article M. The process and the sequence of operations of which it is comprised can be better understood with reference to Figs.10- 16, 19.

[0039] Firstly, an annular band FA is taken by the pick-up device 15 from the storage space 11. To this end, the pick-up device 15 is positioned by the slide 13 above the stack P, from which the annular band FA shall be taken. The pick-up device is positioned by keeping the head 41 of the engaging member 15 lifted (Fig.10). When the head 41 of the engaging member 15 is above the stack P, from which the annular band FA shall be taken, the head 41 is lowered until the adhesive tape 55 is pressed by the guide rollers 57 against the upper surface of the annular band FA (Fig.11). In this way, the adhesive tape 55 is pressed by the guide rollers 57 against the outer surface of the annular band FA, making this surface adhere to the adhesive tape 55 in two points spaced from each other.

[0040] The head 41 is then lifted (Fig.12). The annular band FA, adhering to the adhesive tape 55, is lifted together with the head 41 of the engaging member 25 and opens by gravity, thus taking an approximately circular arrangement. Now, through a movement according to the arrow f27y, keeping the slide 13, and therefore the head 41, still, the positioning rollers 27 are inserted into the annular band FA, as shown in Fig-13. [0041] Then, the positioning rollers 27 are moved away from each another according to the double arrow f27x, for stretching the annular band FA as shown in Fig.14. When the two positioning rollers 27 are made rotate in concordant direction by the motors 29, the annular band FA starts to move according to the arrow indicated in Fig.14. The movement may be in clockwise or counterclockwise direction, indifferently. The purpose of this movement is angularly to position the annular band FA with respect to the positioning rollers 27. For a correct positioning, on the annular band FA a mark MX (Fig.14) may be provided, detectable by a sensor 89 (Figs.8 and 13). The movement of the positioning rollers 27 is stopped when the mark MX is in the desired position, detected by the sensor 89, which generates a signal for stopping the motors 29. The achieved angular position allows loading the annular band FA onto the loading form 7 in correct position for the subsequent sewing to the knitted article M. [0042] When the annular band FA has been correctly positioned, it is transferred onto the stretching device 21. To this end, the stretching device 21 is initially in the position where the fingers 61 are retracted, i.e. adjacent to one another in the position of maximum closeness to the axis of the stretching device 21, as shown in Fig.14. Once the fingers 61 have been inserted between the positioning rollers 27, the fingers 61 enlarge and the positioning rollers 27 move towards each other again. Consequently, the annular band FA is transferred onto the fingers 61 of the stretching device 21 and is kept in stretched position, being arranged according to a polygonal extension, as shown in Fig.15. In this arrangement, the stretching device 21 is spaced from the pressure member 23, which can be positioned around one of the loading forms 7 that, in the meantime, has been brought by the carousel 5 in alignment with the loading station 3.

[0043] As it is clearly apparent from Fig.15, for transferring the annular band FA from the stretching device 21 to the loading form 7, it is firstly necessary to rotate the stretching device 21 around the vertical axis, i.e. around an axis coinciding with the vertical diameter of the ring 59 of the stretching device 21. This axis is shown only in Fig.19, and indicated with D-D.

[0044] In addition to rotating by 180° around the diameter vertical axis D-D, the stretching device 21 is moved towards the pressure member 23, moving along the guide 19, until reaching the position shown in Fig.16. The radial position of the fingers 61 is such that they can enter the space defined inside the ring 67 of the pressure member 23 without interfering therewith. When these movements have been performed, the stretching device 21, the pressure member 23 and the annular band FA are in the position shown in Fig.16. In this figure, the loading form 7 has been omitted for the sake of clarity of representation. However, the final position is such that the annular band FA, engaged by the fingers 61 of the stretching device 21, is around the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7, as shown in the cut-away isometric view of Fig.19.

[0045] At this point, the pushing elements or pads 69 are moved by the actuators 71 radially inwards, i.e. towards the axis of the loading form 7, coinciding in this position to the axis of the stretching device 21 and to the axis of the pressure member 23. Once the pads 69 have been brought to abut against the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7, and press the annular band FA against the loading surface 75, the stretching device 21 moves away from the pressure member 23 and from the loading form 7, thus removing the fingers 61 and allowing the annular band FA, which is made of elastic or stretch fabric, to adhere completely to the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7. The pressure of the pads 69 against the surface 75 of the loading form 7 is sufficient to hold the annular band FA, preventing it from being removed together with the fingers 61 of the stretching device 21. To this end, suitable friction coefficients are adopted for the surface 75 and the pads 69.

[0046] At this point, the pads 69 are moved away from the loading form 7 with a radial outward movement. The pressing member 23, that until now has surrounded with the ring 67 the loading form 7, moves away from the loading form 7 translating along the guide 19. In this way, the loading form 7, onto which the annular band FA has been loaded, can be transferred to the subsequent stations, that will be described below.

[0047] Fig.20 shows the loading form 7 with the annular band FA loaded thereonto and kept on the loading surface 75 due to the elasticity effect of the same annular band.

[0048] After the loading station for loading the annular band FA onto the loading form 7 an operative station is provided for loading the knitted article M onto the loading form 7. This loading station for loading the knitted article M is indicated with the reference number 91 in Figs.2, 3 A and 3B

The loading station 91 for loading the knitted article

[0049] The loading station 91 for loading the knitted article M will be described below with specific reference to Figs.21 to 25.

[0050] A suction duct 93 is associated with the loading station 91 for loading the knitted article M; the suction duct 93 has a vertical segment coaxial with the axis A-A of the carousel 5, a horizontal segment and a second vertical segment ending with a suction mouth 95 that interfaces with the connection 85 of each loading form 7 that is in turn in the loading station 91. In this way, it is possible to generate a suction through the loading form 7. [0051] In the illustrated embodiment, the suction duct 93 rotates by an angle around the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5, so as to follow each loading form 7 for a given angle of the circular trajectory thereof. The angle corresponds, in general, to the angular distance between two consecutive stations of the machine. In this way, the suction duct 93 interfaces with the suction tube 79 of each loading form 7, that in turn shall achieve the loading station 91, before having achieved the angular position where the knitted article M is loaded onto the loading form 7. This angular position is illustrated in the plan view of Fig.2 and indicated with the reference number 91. The suction duct 93 rotates in counterclockwise direction, for example, up to the position of the loading form 7 arranged directly upstream of the form that in Fig.2 is shown in the loading station 91, i.e. up to the position 90 shown in Fig.2. This is a neutral station where each loading form 7 arrives while moving from the loading station 3 for loading the annular band FA to the loading station 91 for loading the knitted article M.

[0052] With the suction duct 93 a blocking pad 97 is associated, radially movable under the control of an actuator 99, for example a cylinder-piston actuator, having the function of blocking the annular band FA that has been previously loaded onto the loading form 7, thus preventing the band from accidentally moving whilst the knitted article M is loaded.

[0053] In advantageous embodiments, the blocking pad 97 is movable around the axis A-A integrally with the suction duct 93, so as to follow the reciprocating rotation movement of the duct from the neutral station 90 to the loading station 91 for loading the knitted article M.

[0054] Thanks to the angular movement of the suction duct 93 and the blocking pad 97 from the loading station 91 to the neutral station 90 and vice versa, it is possible to anticipate the suction action through the suction duct 93 and the suction tube 79, as well as the action of the blocking pad 97 with respect to the step of loading the knitted article M onto the loading form 7.

[0055] The rotation movement around the axis A-A is imparted to the suction duct 93 and the blocking pad 97 by a linear actuator, for example a cylinder-piston actuator 101. Alternatively, the rotation movement around the axis A-A may be imparted by the carousel 5, to which the suction duct is temporarily coupled to rotate therewith. In this case, a linear actuator 101 is provided for bringing every time the duct 93 from the loading station 91 to the neutral station 90 again.

[0056] Fig.22 shows the action of the blocking pad when it is activated. The blocking pad presses against the first border 75.1 of the loading surface 75 keeping by friction the annular band FA in the correct position on the loading form 7. In Fig.22 the suction mouth 95 has been lowered by an actuator 103 until to co-act with the connection 85 of the suction tube 79 associated with the loading form 7 that is in the loading station 91. The lifting and lowering movement of the suction mouth 95 (according to the double arrow f95) allows selectively to interface the suction duct 93 with the suction tube 79 and to release the suction duct 93 from the suction tube 79 to allow the respective loading form 7 to move up to the following station.

[0057] When a loading form 7, with the respective annular band FA loaded thereonto, is in the loading station 91, and the blocking pad 95 and the suction through the suction duct 93 are activated, an operator can manually load the knitted article M as shown in Figs.23 and 24. To this end, the loading form 7 has a central suction port 105 connected to the suction tube 79 and the suction duct 93. The operator inserts the leg pieces G of the knitted article M into the central suction port 105 and makes the whole knitted article M enter into the suction tube 79, except for the body C. The grid or mesh filter 87 prevents the knitted article M from exiting from the side which rotates integrally with the loading form 7 together with the carousel 5. Only the end part of the body C is turned inside out and arranged with the open edge MA thereof approximately aligned with the first hem 01 of the annular band FA. Fig.25 shows a cross-section of the loading form 7 in the loading station 91 with the annular band FA and the knitted article M loaded onto the loading form 7. The cross-section has been cut away according to a vertical plane containing the axis C-C of the loading form 7. [0058] Once both the annular band FA and the knitted article M have been loaded onto the loading form 7 as described above, the loading form is moved by the carousel 5 towards a subsequent sewing station 107, described below.

The sewing station 107

[0059] In the sewing station 107 members are provided external to the carousel 5, as shown in particular in the plan view of Fig.2 and in the isometric view of Fig.29. [0060] The components of the sewing station and the operation thereof will be now described with specific reference to Figs.2, 27-29 and 30(A)-30(H), wherein the sequence of Figs.30(A)-30(H) illustrates in detail the various operations performed to sew together the annular band FA and the knitted article M.

[0061] More specifically, in the sewing station 107, outside the carousel 5, a gripping unit 109 is provided, which co-acts with the loading form 7 that is in turn positioned in the sewing station 107. As it will be better detailed below, the function of the gripping unit 109 is to engage the loading form 7 and to rotate it, keeping the knitted article M and the annular band FA in position on the loading form during sewing. The rotation movement of the loading form 7 allows to sew, through a sewing machine 111, the hem 01 of the annular band FA along the open edge MA of the knitted article M.

[0062] The gripping unit 109 comprises a dragging head 113, supported rotatable on a bearing structure 115. E-E indicates the horizontal rotation axis of the dragging head 113. The dragging head 113 comprises a plurality of sectors or pliers 117 arranged around the rotation axis E-E and activated by actuators 119, for example pneumatic cylinder-piston actuators, moving the pliers 117 in radial direction towards the axis E- E.

[0063] The dragging head 113 is supported idle through bearings 121 and is driven into rotation by a motor 123 through a belt 125, to rotate around the axis E-E (see in particular Fig.28). A rotating joint 127 is provided to pneumatically feed the actuators 119 when the dragging head 113 rotates.

[0064] The dragging head is provided with a movement in radial direction with respect to the axis A-A according to the double arrow fl 13, controlled by an actuator 131 that controls the movement of a slide 133, on which the dragging head 113 and the respective motor 123 are supported.

[0065] The operations performed in the sewing station 107 are illustrated in the sequence of Figs.30(A)-30(H) and will be briefly described here below. In Fig.30(A) the loading form 7 with the annular band FA and the knitted article M has been aligned with the dragging head 113 in the sewing station 107. The sewing machine 111 is in front of the dragging head 113. The dragging head 113 is moved radially towards the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5 until the pliers 117 surround the loading form 7 and the sewing machine 111 is translated radially outwards and moved towards the loading form 7, see Fig.30(B).

[0066] Then, the pliers 117 of the dragging head 113 are closed against the loading form 7 and the sewing machine 111 is moved towards the loading form 7, see Fig.30(C). In Fig.30(D) a further radial inward movement of the dragging head 113 is shown, for making the annular band FA and the body of the knitted article M slide towards the axis A-A so as to increase, if necessary, the fabric portion of the annular band FA and of the knitted article M projecting from the first border 75.1 of the loading surface for facilitating sewing. The sewing machine 111 is also further moved towards the loading form 7.

[0067] Fig.30(E) shows the relative position of the various members in the sewing station 107 during sewing. Sewing is performed by rotating the dragging head 113 around the axis E-E by means of the motor 123. The dragging head 113 drives the loading form 7, with the annular band FA and the knitted article M loaded thereon, into rotation with respect to the sewing machine 111. During rotation, the machine 111 performs sewing. To obtain this rotation, the loading form 7, that up to now has been prevented from rotating by the actuator 83, may be freed to rotate idle around the axis of the same loading form.

[0068] In Fig.30(F) the sewing machine moves away to allow cutting the chain and rotating and correctly phasing the loading form 7 for the subsequent operations. In Fig.30(G) the pliers 117 of the dragging head 113 open, after the loading form 7 has been locked again by the actuator 83to prevent rotation thereof.

[0069] Lastly, as shown in Fig.30(H), the dragging head 113 and the sewing machine 111 completely move away from the loading form 7, allowing the loading form to be transferred, through rotation of the carousel 5, to the subsequent unloading station 135, whose components and operation will be described below.

The unloading station 135

[0070] The structure of the unloading station 135 for unloading the finished garment I from the loading form 7 will be now described with initial reference to Figs.31, 32(A) and 32(B). Fig.31 is an isometric view of the unloading station 135 with a loading form 7 positioned therein. Fig.32(B) is a view according to a vertical plane containing the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5. Fig.32(A) shows a view according to a plane orthogonal to the plane of the view of Fig.32(B), with some components of the unloading station 135 omitted for the sake of simplicity of representation. The sequence shown in Figs.32(A)-32(S), shows the operations performed in the unloading station 135 and will be described below.

[0071] The unloading station 135 comprises a bearing structure 137, on which members are carried, which are intended to engage the garment I loaded onto the loading form 7 and comprising the annular band FA and the knitted article M, and to remove the garment I from the loading form 7.

[0072] More specifically, on the bearing structure 137 two removing members 139 are mounted for removing the knitted article M with the elastic band FA sewn thereto. The two removing members are constituted by, or comprise, respective two pairs of unloading fingers 139. Here below, reference number 139 will specifically indicate the two pairs of unloading fingers. These pairs are movable with respect to each other in horizontal direction and are part of two removing members, to move towards and away from each other. The fingers are movable along a crossbar 141 carried by the bearing structure 137, to which guides 142 are fastened for the sliding of carriages 143, onto which the two pairs of fingers 139 are mounted. Actuators 145, for example pneumatic cylinder-piston actuators, control the movement of the two carriages 143 towards and away from each other, and therefore the movement of the two pairs of fingers 139 in direction P39. On each carriage 143 a pad 147 is hinged, co-acting with the respective pair of fingers 139. Each pad is controlled by an actuator 149, for example a pneumatic cylinder-piston actuator, carried by the respective carriage 143, to push against the pair of fingers 139 or to move away therefrom.

[0073] The crossbar 141 is carried by a slide 151 movable along a guide 153. The double arrow fl 51 indicates the movement of the slide 151 in a direction orthogonal to the crossbar 141 and radial with respect to the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5. The movement of the slide 151 is controlled by a motor 155 fastened to the bearing structure 137. [0074] On the bearing structure 137 a pair of unloading rollers 157 is carried, which are parallel to each other and have horizontal axes. The unloading rollers 157 are supported by a crossbar 159 carried by a vertical column 161 with axis F-F. Through a motor 163, the vertical column 161 rotates the crossbar 159 around the axis F-F. [0075] The operations for unloading the garment from the unloading form 7 performed in the unloading station 135 will be now described with reference to the sequence of Figs.32(A)-32(S).

[0076] As indicated above, Fig.32(A) and 32(B) show two views of the unloading station 135 and of the loading form 7 positioned thereinside. For more clarity of representation, the mechanical structures associate with the loading form 7 have been omitted, as well as the unloading rollers 157 and the respective bearing structure. In the step illustrated in Figs.32(A) and 32(B), the fingers 139 and the pads 147 are in spread apart position and outside the loading form 7, i.e. in a position of greater distance from the axis A-A than the loading form 7. This spaced position allows inserting the loading form 7 into the unloading station 135.

[0077] Then, the slide 151 is translated towards the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5 up to bring the fingers 139 and the pads 147 in a position comprised between the loading form 7 and the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5, i.e. behind the loading form 7, as shown in Fig.32(C). In this position, the carriages 143 move towards each other, thus moving the two pairs of fingers 139 towards each other, whilst the pads 147 are in spaced position with respect to the respective fingers 139. As shown in Fig.32(D), following this movement of the carriages 143 towards each other, the fingers 139 are positioned inside a cylindrical surface constituting an ideal extension of the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7, whilst the pads 147 are outside this cylindrical surface.

[0078] In Fig.32(E) the slide 153 is translated in opposite direction, until to bring the fingers 139 inside the cylindrical wall 73 of the loading form 7, whilst the pads 147 are positioned laterally outside the cylindrical wall 73. It should be noted that the angular position of the loading form 7 is such that the recesses 77 are aligned with the fingers 139. This allows the fingers 139 to move away from one another through a symmetrical movement of the carriages 143. With this movement, the fingers 139 pass through the recesses or openings 77 and move externally to the cylindrical wall 73 and to the loading surface 75, as shown in Fig.32(F). The pads 147 are still spaced from the fingers 139. This stretching movement of the pairs of fingers 139 make the annular band FA and the body C of the knitted article M stretch on the fingers 139 and partially move away from the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7.

[0079] In the subsequent step, shown in Fig.32(G), the pads 147 are activated by the actuators 149 and pushed against the fingers 139, so that the garment I, formed by the annular band FA and by the knitted article M, is pinched against the two pairs of fingers 139. [0080] At this point, as the fingers 139 and the pads 147 are outside the loading form

7, the slide 151 can be radially translated outwards moving away from the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5, up to the position shown in Figs. 32(H) and 32(1), spaced from the loading form 7. The garment I is thus unloaded from the loading surface 75 of the loading form 7, whilst the annular band FA and the body C of the knitted article M remain engaged by the fingers 139, pressed against the fingers by the pads 147. The leg pieces G are still inside the suction tube 79. In the space formed between the fingers 139 and the loading form 7 it is possible to insert a rod 165, supported rotatably on the bearing structure 133. The rod 165 can rotate around a horizontal axis (arrow fl 65 in Fig.32(J)) controlled by an actuator, for example a pneumatic cylinder-piston actuator 167, to move from a vertical position (Figs.32(A)-32(I)) to a horizontal position

(Fig.32(H)).

[0081] From the position shown in Fig. 32(J), the rod 165 moves vertically downwards due to the movement of a slide 169, on which the rod 165 and the actuator 167 are mounted. The reference number 171 indicates the guide, along which the slide 169 moves. The lowering movement (arrow W65C in Fig.32(L) and 32(M)) causes the complete removal of the leg pieces G from the suction tube 79.

[0082] Figs.32(N), 32(0) and 32(P) show a further movement of the slide 151, following which the annular band FA and the body C of the knitted article M are brought onto the unloading rollers 157. Once the position shown in Fig.32(P) has been achieved, the pads 147 and the fingers 139 can free the garment I, which is thus transferred to the unloading rollers 157. Unloading is performed by moving the pads 147 away from the fingers 139 and making the fingers rotate around respective vertical axes.

[0083] In Fig.32(Q) the garment I has been transferred onto the unloading rollers 157. Once the garment I, formed by the knitted article M and the annular band FA sewn thereto, has been transferred onto the unloading rollers 157, the fingers 139 and the pads 147 are moved away from the unloading rollers 157 through a movement towards the rotation axis A-A of the carousel 5, as shown in Fig.32(R), and the unloading rollers 157 rotate around the axis F-F, see Fig. 32(S), so as to present the garment to an operator or to transfer it to conveyors (not shown), which transport it to subsequent processing stations, for example for closing the toe of the leg pieces G.

[0084] List of reference numbers

I apparatus

3 loading station

5 moving member, carousel

7 loading form

9 structure bearing the loading station 3

I I storage space for the annular bands FA

13 slide of the pick-up device 15

15 pick-up device

17 guide of the slide 13

19 guide of the stretching device 21 and of the pressure member 23

21 stretching device

23 pressure member

25 engaging member

27 positioning rollers

29 motors of the rollers 27

31 slide of the rollers 27

33 guide of the slide 31

35 guide of the rollers 27

37 carriages supporting the rollers 27 and the motors 29

38 linear actuators of the carriages 37

39 actuator head of the engaging member 25 rack pinion electric motor for moving the head 41 motor for the adhesive tape unwinding reel rewinding reel adhesive tape small guide rollers for guiding the the adhesive tape 55 ring of the stretching device 21 fingers of the stretching device 21 levers of the fingers 61 actuator of the stretching device 21 ring of the pressure member 23 pads actuators of the pads 69 cylindrical wall of the loading form 7 loading surface first border of the loading surface second border of the loading surface recesses or openings of the wall 73 suction tube upright supporting the form and the suction tube stop actuator for stopping the rotation of the loading form 7 connection of the suction tube 79 mesh filter sensor reading the band FA neutral station loading station for loading the knitted article M onto the loading form 7 suction duct suction mouth blocking pad actuator of the blocking pad 97 actuator activating the rotation of the suction duct 93 actuator of the suction mouth central suction port of the loading form 7 sewing station gripping unit sewing machine dragging head structure supporting the dragging head 113 pliers or movable sectors of the dragging head 113 actuators of the pliers 117 bearings supporting the head 113 motor of the head 113 belt rotating joint actuator slide carrying the dragging head 113 unloading station bearing structure in the unloading station unloading fingers; removing members crossbar supporting the fingers 139 guide of the fingers 139 carriages of the fingers 139 actuators of the fingers 139 pad actuator of the pad 147 slide carrying the crossbar 141 guide of the slide 151 motor of the slide 151 unloading rollers crossbar supporting the unloading rollers 157 column bearing the unloading rollers 157 motor for the rotation of the unloading rollers 157 165 rod

167 actuator of the rod 165

169 slide of the rod 165

171 guide of the slide 165

A- A axis of the carousel 5

FA annular bands

P piles of annular bands FA

B-B axis of the roller 27

C-C axis of the loading form 7

D-D vertical rotation axis of the stretching device 21

M knitted article

D right side of the garment

R reverse side of the garment

I garment

MX mark on the annular band FA

MA open edge

E-E rotation axis of the dragging head 113

F-F rotation axis of the unloading rollers