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Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING FABRICS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/255029
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to an apparatus (1) for producing fabrics (F), comprising a positioning station (2) for at least one tubular fabric (T), comprising a stretching device (3), a feeding station (4) for a reinforcement sheet material (R) that can be positioned on at least one outer surface (Te) of the tubular fabric (T), a connecting station (5) configured for engaging said portion (4a) f reinforcement sheet material (R) onto said outer surface (Te). The stretching device (3) comprises at least one first and one second rod (6, 7) parallel to one another and configured for contacting an inner surface (Ti) of the tubular fabric (T): said first and second rod (6, 7) are movable with respect to one another and configured for enabling the tubular fabric (T) to be stretched.

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Inventors:
PATERLINI STEFANO (IT)
LONATI ANDREA (IT)
Application Number:
PCT/IB2020/055728
Publication Date:
December 24, 2020
Filing Date:
June 18, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SANTONI & C SPA (IT)
International Classes:
A41H43/00; A41H43/04; D06C5/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2016125043A12016-08-11
Foreign References:
US5701641A1997-12-30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROSA, Daniele (IT)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. An apparatus (1) for producing fabrics (F) comprising:

at least one positioning station (2) configured for receiving and supporting at least one tubular fabric (T), said tubular fabric (T) being of the type that can be manufactured by means of circular knitting machines and exhibits a through seat extending along a whole longitudinal development of the tubular fabric (T), said positioning station (2) comprising at least one stretching device (3) configured for contacting at least one portion of an inner surface (T,) of the tubular fabric (T), delimiting said through seat,

at least one feeding station (4) for a reinforcement sheet material (R) that can be positioned on at least one portion of an outer surface (Te) of the tubular fabric (T) opposed to said inner surface (T,), said feeding station (4) being configured for arranging at least one portion (4a) of said reinforcement sheet material (R) on a predefined pickup position,

at least one connecting station (5) configured for engaging said portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) onto said outer surface (Te) of the tubular fabric (T),

characterized in that the stretching device (3) of the positioning station (2) comprises at least one first and one second rod (6, 7) basically parallel to one another and configured for contacting the inner surface (T,) of the tubular fabric (T), said first and second rod (6, 7) being movable with respect to one another and configured for enabling the tubular fabric (T) to be stretched.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein the first and the second rod (6, 7) of the stretching device (3) extend along respective directions of main development, wherein said first and second rod (6, 7) are movable approaching and getting away from each other along a transversal direction, optionally an orthogonal direction, with respect to the direction of main development of at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7).

3. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first and the second rod (6, 7) of the stretching device (3) are movable with respect to one another at least between:

a close position in which said first and second rod (6, 7) can be inserted into the through seat of the tubular fabric (T) placed in one condition,

a distanced position in which said first and second rod (6, 7) are configured for stretching the tubular fabric (T),

wherein said first and second rod (6, 7), in the distanced position, are placed at a greater distance than a distance of said first and second rod (6, 7) placed in the close position.

4. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first rod (6) comprises an elongated cylindrical body extending along its own axis (X), said first rod (6) being movable by rotation around its axis (X),

wherein the second rod (7) comprises a respective elongated cylindrical body extending along a respective axis (Y), said second rod (7) being movable by rotation around its axis (Y),

optionally the first and the second rod (6, 7) are configured for rotating around their respective axes (X, Y) according to identical directions.

5. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the stretching device (3) comprises at least one support frame (8) supporting said first and second rod (6, 7),

wherein at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) is movable by rotation with respect to the support frame (3) so as to enable the relative movement between said first and second rod (6, 7), optionally so as to allow the first and second rod to shift from the close position to the distance position, and vice versa,

wherein the distanced position (3) comprises at least one actuator (9) acting upon at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) and configured for enabling the relative movement by shifting between the latter, optionally the shifting of said first and second rod between the close position and the distanced position, and vice versa, optionally said actuator (9) comprising an electric motor.

6. The apparatus according to claim 4 or 5, wherein the stretching device (3) comprises at least one motor (10), e.g. an electric motor, connected to at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7), so as to define a powered rod, said motor (10) being configured for putting in rotation around its axis at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7).

7. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising a propping frame (1 a) supporting the positioning station (2), the feeding station (4) and the connecting station (5),

wherein the stretching device (3) of the positioning station (2) is movable with respect to the propping frame (1 a) at least between:

a first operating position in which said stretching device (3) is aligned with the connecting station (5), a second operating position, distanced from the first operating position, in which the stretching device (3) is configured for receiving the tubular fabric (T) and the portion of reinforcement sheet material (R), wherein the connecting station (5), in the first operating position of the stretching device (3), is configured for acting upon the portion of reinforcement sheet material (R) so as to engage the latter to the outer surface of the tubular fabric (T).

8. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the connecting station (5) comprises an adhesive treatment head (11) that is movable between a raised position and a lowered position, said adhesive treatment head (11), in the lowered position, being configured for enabling the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) to be connected to the outer surface of the tubular fabric (T) when the stretching device (3) is in the first operating position,

optionally the adhesive treatment head (11), in the raised position, being configured for allowing the stretching device (3) to be shifted from the first operating position to the second operating position, and vice versa.

9. The apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the feeding station (4) comprises: at least one reel (14) configured for unwinding the reinforcement sheet material R in an endless shape, at least one cutter (15) configured for cutting the reinforcement sheet material in an endless shape so as to define said portion (4a).

10. The apparatus according to any one of the claims 5 to 9, comprising at least one control unit connected to the actuator (9) of the positioning station (2) and configured for controlling the relative movement between the first and the second rod (6, 7), optionally the control unit is connected to the actuator (9) and to the motor (10) of the positioning station (2), the control unit being configured for:

controlling the actuator so as to enable the relative movement by shifting of the first and second rod (6, 7), optionally the control unit activates the actuator so as to control the close and distanced position of the first and second rod,

controls the motor (10) for enabling the rotation of at least one of said first and second rod around its axis.

11. The apparatus according to the preceding claim, wherein the control unit is configured for synchronizing the relative movement of the first and second rod from the close position to the distanced position with the rotation of at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7),

optionally the control unit is configured for controlling the rotation of at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) at least during the relative movement of said first and second rod (6, 7) between the close position and the distanced position.

12. The apparatus according to claim 10 or 11 , comprising at least one sensor configured for sending a signal representing a position of the tubular fabric (T) arranged on the stretching device (3),

wherein the control unit is connected to said sensor and configured for:

receiving as input the signal from said sensor,

processing the signal so as to evaluate a position of the tubular fabric (T) arranged on the stretching device (3),

as a function of the evaluation of the position of the tubular fabric, controlling the motor (10) connected to at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) so as to adjust the movement of said tubular fabric (T) around said rods.

13. The apparatus according to any one of the claims 10 to 12, wherein the feeding station (4) comprises a powered unwinder supporting the reel (14) and configured for enabling the rotation of the reel and the resulting unwinding of the reinforcement sheet material (R),

wherein the control unit is connected to and controls the unwinder, the control unit being configured for: receiving as input a parameter representing a predefined amount of reinforcement sheet material to be unwound,

as a function of said parameter, control the unwinder so that it rotates the reel in order to provide said predefined amount of reinforcement sheet material.

14. A method for manufacturing a fabric (F) by means of an apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, said method comprising the following steps:

providing a tubular fabric exhibiting a through seat extending along a whole longitudinal development of the tubular fabric (T), said tubular fabric (T) extending in thickness between an outer surface and an inner surface, said inner surface delimiting said through seat,

arranging the tubular fabric on said first and second rod so that the latter are arranged in the through seat of the tubular fabric at least partly in contact with the inner surface,

after the step of arranging the tubular fabric on said first and second rod, moving said first and second rod (6, 7) one with respect to the other so as to allow the tubular fabric to be stretched,

arranging above the stretched tubular fabric, in contact with at least one part of the outer surface of said tubular fabric, a portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R),

moving the stretching device in the first operating position on the connecting station (5),

engaging, by means of said connecting station (5), the reinforcement sheet material to the outer surface of the tubular fabric.

15. The method according to the preceding claim, wherein the step of moving the first and second rod (6, 7) comprises the shifting of the latter between the close position and the distanced position,

optionally the step of moving the first and second rod (6, 7) comprises the rotation of at least one of said rods around its axis so as to enable a rotation of the tubular fabric around said first and second rod.

Description:
DESCRIPTION

"APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING FABRICS’’

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an apparatus and related method for producing fabrics to be used for manufacturing assembled textile items such as e.g. jackets, trousers, men's suits, women's dresses or other textile items assembled from a plurality of fabric parts.

PRIOR ART

Today it is known about several types of assembled textile items, obtained by joining fabric parts of various shapes; each fabric part is obtained by cutting initial half-processed fabrics, e.g. by means of paper patterns. The fabrics used for producing these assembled textile items must have predefined properties relating to stability and stiffness, so as to be able to be processed and to give the finished product the desired appearance and technical features. These fabrics include e.g. jersey, velvet, brocade and are manufactured with materials including e.g. cotton, wool, linen, silk and synthetic materials.

Traditionally, fabrics for assembled items are manufactured by weaving on suitable looms (rectilinear knitting machines) which, thanks to weft and warp knitting, can manufacture fabrics with a high structural stiffness, as is suitable for producing assembled textile items.

However, a drawback due to the use of looms relates to the low flexibility of manufacturing processes. As a matter of fact, looms require a long and complex initial setup; for this reason, looms are configured for necessarily manufacturing large amounts of fabric (fabrics in large pieces) so that production can be economically advantageous. However, this results in high limitations as far as the flexibility of the manufacturing process of the textile items is concerned, and makes the production of samples and small on- demand amounts expensive.

It should be further pointed out that production by weaving allows to obtain some types of wefts and patterns: it does not have a high flexibility as far as fabric types or fineness is concerned and does not allow to automatically produce complex structures on the fabric, as can be obtained with other types of knitting machines. This latter drawback further lies on the (low) flexibility of productions by means of looms.

Today, circular knitting machines are used for producing samples and some knitted items, such as e.g. underwear, technical apparel, sportswear, beachwear, medical apparel and sweaters. Although circular knitting machines have a high flexibility of use if compared with looms, these machines are not suitable for manufacturing fabrics having the required stiffness for producing assembled textile items.

In order to obviate this drawback, a process for reinforcing fabrics obtained by circular knitting machines has been developed. This process, described in patent application No. WO 2016/125043 A1, includes an initial step of fitting the tubular fabric onto one block or cylinder; the block and the cylinder have a given size apt to house tubular fabrics with a given diameter. Then an operator places a reinforcing fabric provided with adhesive material onto the tubular fabric; through several steps of heating the reinforcing fabric, e.g. by ironing, the operator joins the reinforcing fabric to the tubular fabric thus basically defining a reinforced multilayer fabric to be used for producing assembled textile items.

Although the solution described above in patent application No. WO 2016/125043 A1 allows to manufacture reinforced fabrics that are suitable for producing assembled textile items, the Applicant has found out that even this solution can be improved in terms of flexibility of use and manufacturing speed.

AIM OF THE INVENTION

The aim of the present invention is therefore to solve at least one of the drawbacks and/or limitations of prior art solutions.

A first goal of the present invention is to provide an apparatus than is able to manufacture, effectively and in short times, fabrics suitable for producing assembled textile items; in particular, an aim of the present invention is to provided an apparatus that is able to manufacture fabrics, starting from tubular fabrics obtained by means of circular knitting machines, having an excellent stiffness and a structure that is suitable for producing assembled textile items.

Another aim of the invention is to provide an apparatus and a method that allow to manufacture fabrics, in particular assembled textile items for small productions and samplings, rapidly and with low costs. A further aim of the invention is to provide an apparatus and a related method that allow to manufacture high quality, low cost fabrics with a high manufacturing flexibility.

Another aim of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and a method for manufacturing fabrics, in particular assembled textile items, that allow to minimize manual interventions by operators and increase productivity. A further aim of the present invention is to provide an apparatus having a simple, compact structure that is able to simplify interventions involving changes and maintenance of the apparatus, and that is therefore able to minimize downtimes. Another aim of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and a related method that are suitable for processing different types of laminar materials, such as tubular sheet fiber material, e.g. fabrics, knitted fabrics and/or non-wovens, with a simple and cheap design.

These and other aims, which shall be more apparent from the following description, are basically achieved by an apparatus and a related method for producing fabrics according to one or more of the appended claims and/or of the following aspects.

SUMMARY

In a first aspect, it is provided for an apparatus (1) for producing fabrics (F) comprising:

- at least one positioning station (2) configured for receiving and supporting at least one tubular fabric (T), said tubular fabric (T) being of the type that can be manufactured by means of circular knitting machines and exhibits a through seat extending along a whole longitudinal development of the tubular fabric (T), said positioning station (2) comprising at least one stretching device (3) configured for contacting at least one portion of an inner surface (T) of the tubular fabric (T) delimiting said through seat, - at least one feeding station (4) for a reinforcement sheet material (R) that can be positioned on at least one portion of an outer surface (T e ) of the tubular fabric (T) opposed to said inner surface (T,), said feeding station (4) being configured for arranging at least one portion (4a) of said reinforcement sheet material (R) on a predefined pickup position,

- at least one connecting station (5) configured for engaging said portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) onto said outer surface (T e ) of the tubular fabric (T).

In a second aspect in accordance with the first aspect, the stretching device (3) of the positioning station (2) comprises at least one first and one second rod (6, 7) configured for contacting the inner surface (Ti) of the tubular fabric (T), said first and second rod (6, 7) being movable with respect to one another, and optionally configured for enabling the tubular fabric (T) to be stretched.

In a third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) are basically parallel to one another.

In a fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) of the stretching device (3) extend along respective directions of main development.

In a fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) are movable approaching and getting away from each other along a transversal direction, optionally an orthogonal direction, with respect to the direction of main development of at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7).

In a sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) of the stretching device (3) are movable with respect to one another at least between:

- a close position in which said first and second rod (6, 7) can be inserted into the through seat of the tubular fabric (T) placed in one condition,

- a distanced position in which said first and second rod (6, 7) are configured for stretching the tubular fabric

(T).

In a seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and second rod (6, 7), in the distanced position, are placed at a greater distance than a distance of said first and second rod (6, 7) placed in the close position.

In an eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first rod (6) comprises an elongated cylindrical body extending along its own axis (X).

In a ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the second rod (7) comprises a respective elongated cylindrical body extending along a respective axis (Y).

In a tenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first rod (6) is movable by rotation around its own axis (X).

In an eleventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the second rod (7) is movable by rotation around its own axis (Y).

In a twelfth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) are configured for rotating around their respective axes (X, Y) according to identical directions. In a thirteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the stretching device (3) comprises at least one support frame (8) supporting said first and second rod (6, 7).

In a fourteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, at least one of the first and second rod (6, 7) is movable by rotation with respect to the support frame (3) so as to enable the relative movement between the first and second rod (6, 7), optionally so as to allow the first and second rod to shift from the close position to the distance position, and vice versa.

In a fifteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the stretching device (3) comprises at least one actuator (9) acting upon at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7).

In a sixteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the actuator (9) is configured for enabling the relative movement by shifting between the first and the second rod (6, 7), optionally the shifting of the first and second rod between the close position and the distanced position, and vice versa, optionally said actuator (9) comprising an electric motor.

In a seventeenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) are both engaged to the supporting frame (8) by means of a hinge-type connection.

In a eighteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the stretching device (3) comprises at least one motor (10), e.g. an electric motor, connected to at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7), so as to define a powered rod, said motor (10) being configured for putting in rotation around its axis at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7).

In a nineteenth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus (1) comprises a propping frame (1 a) supporting the positioning station (2), the feeding station (4) and the connecting station (5).

In a twentieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the stretching device (3) of the positioning station (2) is movable with respect to the propping frame (1 a) at least between:

- a first operating position in which said stretching device (3) is aligned with the connecting station (5),

- a second operating position, distanced from the first operating position, in which the stretching device (3) is configured for receiving the tubular fabric (T) and optionally the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R).

In a twenty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5), in the first operating position of the stretching device (3), is configured for acting upon the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) so as to engage the latter to the outer surface of the tubular fabric (T).

In a twenty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the positioning station (2) comprises an actuator configured for shifting the stretching device (3) between the first operating position and the second operating position, and vice versa.

In a twenty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5) comprises an adhesive treatment head (11) that is movable between a raised position and a lowered position. In a twenty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the adhesive treatment head (11), in the lowered position, is configured for enabling the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) to be connected to the outer surface (T e ) of the tubular fabric (T) when the stretching device (3) is in the first operating position.

In a twenty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the adhesive treatment head (11), in the raised position, is configured for allowing the stretching device (3) to be shifted from the first operating position to the second operating position, and vice versa.

In a twenty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the stretching device (3), in the first operating position and with the apparatus in use, is vertically aligned with the connecting station (5), optionally the stretching device (3), in the first operating position and with the apparatus in use, is below the adhesive treatment head (11).

In a twenty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the adhesive treatment head (11) comprises a heater.

In a twenty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5) comprises a first actuator configured for shifting the adhesive treatment head (11) between the lowered position and the raised position, and vice versa.

In a twenty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7) of the stretching device (3), in the distanced position, are configured for placing the tubular fabric (T) according to a basically oval, closed path having:

- a rectilinear upper portion,

- a rectilinear lower portion opposed to the upper portion,

- a first and a second connecting portions, which connect the upper and lower portion.

In a thirtieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the first and the second rod (6, 7), in the distanced position, are configured for rotating around their own axis so as to enable the movement of the tubular fabric (T) around said first and second rod (6, 7) and therefore the shift of the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) arranged above said tubular fabric (T).

In a thirty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus (1) comprises a propping element (12) to be inserted into the through seat of the tubular fabric (T) between the first and the second rod (6, 7).

In a thirty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) is configured for supporting the tubular fabric (T).

In a thirty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) can be inserted between the first and second rod (6, 7) when these are arranged in the distanced position, optionally said propping element (12) being configured for supporting the upper portion of the tubular fabric (T).

In a thirty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) is part of the connecting station (5).

In a thirty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) can be inserted into the tubular fabric (T) in the first operating position of the stretching device (3). In a thirty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) comprises a plate.

In a thirty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) is movable at least between:

- an engaged position in which the propping element (12) is placed at least partially between said first and second rod (6, 7) and configured for supporting the tubular fabric (T), optionally the upper portion of the tubular fabric,

- an extracted position in which the propping element (12) is at a distance from the first and second rod with respect to a direction parallel to the direction of development of said rods (6, 7).

In a thirty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the propping element (12) is movable between the engaged position and the extracted position, and vice versa, along a direction parallel to the direction of development of the first and second rod (6, 7).

In a thirty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5) comprises at least a second actuator configured for shifting the propping element (12) between the engaged position and the retracted position.

In a fortieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5) comprises a resting plate (13).

In a forty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the resting plate (13) is configured for supporting the stretching device (3) in the first operating position.

In a forty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the resting plate (13) is opposed to the adhesive treatment head (11) with respect to the stretching device in the first operating position.

In a forty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the resting place (13) is movable between a lowered position and a raised position.

In a forty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the resting plate (13), in the lowered position and with the apparatus (1) in use, is placed below the adhesive treatment head (11), at a distance from the stretching device (3) in the first operating position.

In a forty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the resting plate (13), in the raised position, is configured for contacting the tubular fabric (T) on an opposed side with respect to the adhesive treatment head (11).

In a forty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the connecting station (5) comprises a third actuator configured for shifting the resting plate (13) between the lowered position and the raised position, and vice versa.

In a forty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the feeding station (4) comprises:

- at least one coil (14) configured for unwinding the reinforcement sheet material R in an endless shape, - at least one cutter (15) configured for cutting the reinforcement sheet material in an endless shape so as to define said portion (4a).

In a forty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the reinforcement sheet material (R) can be obtained by means of weaving looms.

In a forty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) comprises at least:

- a woven layer that can be obtained by means of weaving looms,

- a coating of adhesive material, e.g. glue, placed at least partially on at least one surface of said woven layer,

optionally the coating comprises discrete portions of adhesive material uniformly distributed on at least one surface of the woven layer.

In a fiftieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus (1) comprises at least one control unit.

In a fifty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to the actuator (9) of the positioning station (2).

In a fifty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to the motor (10) of the positioning station (2).

In a fifty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for controlling the relative movement between the first and the second rod (6, 7).

In a fifty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for:

- controlling the actuator (9) so as to enable the relative movement by shifting of the first and second rod (6, 7), optionally the control unit activates the actuator so as to control the close and distanced position of the first and second rod,

- controls the motor (10) for enabling the rotation of at least one of said first and second rod around its axis. In a fifty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for synchronizing the relative movement of the first and second rod (6, 7) from the close position to the distanced position with the rotation of at least one of the first and second rod (6, 7).

In a fifty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for controlling the rotation of at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) at least during the relative movement of said first and second rod (6, 7) between the close position and the distanced position.

In a fifty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for:

- receiving as input at least one parameter representing the size of the tubular fabric (T) to be fitted onto the stretching device (3),

- controlling the actuator (9) of the stretching device (3) for adjusting the distance between said first and second rod (6, 7) as a function of said parameter.

In a fifty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for: - receiving as input at least one parameter representing the size of the tubular fabric (T) to be fitted onto the stretching device (3),

- controlling the motor (10) of the stretching device (3) for adjusting the stretching of the tubular fabric as a function of said parameter.

In a fifty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the parameter represents at least one of:

- a diameter of the tubular fabric,

- a material of the tubular fabric,

- a length of the tubular fabric.

In a sixtieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus (1) comprises at least one sensor configured for sending a signal representing a position of the tubular fabric (T) arranged on the stretching device (3).

In a sixty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to said sensor and configured for:

- receiving as input the signal from said sensor,

- processing the signal so as to evaluate a position of the tubular fabric (T) arranged on the stretching device (3),

- as a function of the evaluation of the position of the tubular fabric (T), controlling the motor (10) connected to at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) so as to adjust the movement of said tubular fabric (T) around said rods (6, 7).

In a sixty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the sensor comprises at least one of: an optical sensor, a position sensor.

In a sixty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to and acts by control upon the first actuator, the second actuator and the third actuator of the connecting station (5).

In a sixty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for controlling the first, second and third actuator of the connecting station (5) so as to synchronize the movement of the adhesive treatment head (11), optionally of the heater, from the raised position to the lowered position with:

- the movement of the propping element (12) in the engaged position,

- the movement of the resting plate (13) in the raised position.

In a sixty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for:

- controlling the actuator of the position station (2) so as to shift the stretching device (3) to the first operating position,

- after the shift of the stretching device (3) to the first operating position, controlling the second actuator so as to shift the propping element to the engaged position, - after the shift of the stretching device (3) to the first operating position, controlling the third actuator so as to shift the resting plate to the raised position.

In a sixty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the feeding station (4) comprises a powered unwinder supporting the coil (14).

In a sixty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the powered unwinder is configured for enabling the rotation of the coil (14) and the resulting unwinding of the reinforcement sheet material (R).

In a sixty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to and acts by control upon the powered unwinder.

In a sixty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is configured for:

- receiving as input a parameter representing a predefined amount of reinforcement sheet material to be unwound,

- as a function of said parameter, control the unwinder so that it rotates the coil (14) in order to provide said predefined amount of reinforcement sheet material.

In a seventieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to and acts by control upon the cutter (15) of the feeding station (4), the control unit being configured for controlling the cutter so that it cuts the predefined amount of reinforcement sheet material unwound from the coil in order to defined said portion (4a).

In a seventy-first aspect, it is provided for a method for manufacturing a fabric (F) by means of an apparatus in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects.

In a seventy-second aspect in accordance with the aspect according to the preceding aspect, the method comprises at least the following steps:

- providing the tubular fabric (T), optionally the tubular fabric exhibits a through seat extending along a whole longitudinal development of the tubular fabric (T), optionally said tubular fabric (T) extending in thickness between an outer surface and an inner surface, optionally said inner surface delimiting said through seat,

- arranging the tubular fabric (T) on said first and second rod so that the latter are arranged in the through seat of the tubular fabric at least partly in contact with the inner surface,

- after the step of arranging the tubular fabric on said first and second rod, moving said first and second rod (6, 7) one with respect to the other so as to allow the tubular fabric to be stretched.

In a seventy-third aspect in accordance with the seventy-first or seventy-second aspect, the method comprises the following steps:

- arranging above the stretched tubular fabric (T), in contact with at least one part of the outer surface of said tubular fabric, a portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R),

- engaging, by means of said connecting station (5), the reinforcement sheet material to the outer surface of the tubular fabric. In a seventy-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the seventy- third, the method comprises a step of moving the stretching device (3) on the connecting station (5), optionally in the first operating position.

In a seventy-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the seventy- fourth, the method comprises shifting the stretching device (3), carrying the tubular fabric (T) and the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R), from the second to the first operating position, i.e. on the connecting station (5).

In a seventy-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the seventy-fifth, when the stretching device (3) is switched from the second to the first operating position, the adhesive treatment head (11) is in the raised position.

In a seventy-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy -first to the seventy- sixth, when the stretching device (3) is switched from the second to the first operating position, the resting plate (13) is in the lowered position while the propping element (12) is in the extracted position.

In a seventy-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the seventy- seventh, after the stretching device (3) is shifted to the first operating position, the method comprises at least one of the following sub-steps:

- moving the adhesive treatment head (11) from the raised position to the lowered position so as to enable the connection of at least one length of the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material to the tubular fabric (T),

- moving the propping element from the extracted position to the engaged position, between said first and second rod (6, 7) in the distanced position,

- moving the resting plate (13) from the lowered position to the raised position so as to prop the stretching device (3).

In an eightieth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the seventy-ninth, the step of moving the first and second rod (6, 7) comprises the shifting of the latter between the close position and the distanced position.

In an eighty-first aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eightieth, the step of moving the first and second rod (6, 7) comprises the rotation of at least one of said rods (6, 7) around its axis so as to enable a rotation of the tubular fabric around said first and second rod.

In an eighty-second aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eighty-first, the step of arranging the tubular fabric on the first and second rod comprises the following sub-steps:

- placing the stretching device (3) in the second operating position with the first and the second rod placed in the close position,

- then fitting the tubular fabric onto the first and second rod (6, 7) in the close position.

In an eighty-third aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eighty- second, the step of moving the stretching device from the second to the first operating position is executed after the step of arranging the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) above the stretched tubular fabric.

In an eighty-fourth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eighty-third, the step of engaging the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) onto the tubular fabric (T) comprises a step of adhesive treatment, e.g. with glue.

In an eighty-fifth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eighty-fourth, the step of engaging the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) onto the tubular fabric (T) comprises a step of fusible printing by heating.

In an eighty-sixth aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy -first to the eighty -fifth, the step of engaging the portion (4a) of reinforcement sheet material (R) onto the tubular fabric (T) comprises at least the following sub-steps:

- connecting at least a first length of the portion (4a) to the tubular fabric (T) by means of the adhesive treatment head,

- then shifting the adhesive treatment head to the raised position and rotate at least one of said first and second rod so that a second length of the portion (4a) that is not yet connected to the tubular fabric faces the adhesive treatment head (11),

- then moving the adhesive treatment head to the lowered position so as to connect said second length of the portion (4a) to the tubular fabric,

- then shifting the adhesive treatment head to the raised position and rotate at least one of said first and second rod so that a third length of the portion (4a) that is not yet connected to the tubular fabric faces the adhesive treatment head (11),

- then moving the adhesive treatment head to the lowered position so as to connect said third length of the portion (4a) to the tubular fabric.

In an eighty-seventh aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the eighty- sixth, the movement of the adhesive treatment head (11) is synchronized with the rotation of said first and second rod by means of the control unit.

In an eighty-eighth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the at least one stretching device of the apparatus can comprises at least a first and at least a second stretching device (3).

In an eighty-ninth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus comprises at least one actuator (9) for shifting said first and second rod between the close position and the distanced position for each stretching device (3).

In a ninetieth aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the apparatus comprises at least one motor (10) for rotating at least one of said first and second rod (6, 7) for each stretching device (3).

In a ninety-first aspect in accordance with any one of the preceding aspects, the control unit is connected to each of said first and second stretching device (3) and is configured for controlling the latter so that they reach the first and second operating position in an alternate manner, optionally so that the first stretching device is in the first operating position while the second stretching device is in the second operating position, and vice versa.

In a ninety-second aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the ninety-first, the method comprises the execution of the step of engaging the portion (4a) onto the tubular fabric carried by a first stretching device in the first operating position during the execution of the step of arranging the tubular fabric and the portion (4a) on a second stretching device in the second operating position.

In a ninety-third aspect in accordance with any one of the aspects from the seventy-first to the ninety-second, at the end of the step of engaging the portion (4a) to the tubular fabric so as to define a fabric (F), the method comprises the following sub-steps:

- shifting the stretching device to the second operating position,

- cutting through the fabric (F) still tubular in shape so as to open it.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Some embodiments and aspects of the invention will be described below with reference to the accompanying drawings, provided to a mere indicative and thus non-limiting purpose, in which:

- Figure 1 is a perspective view of an apparatus according to the present invention;

- Figures 2A-2C are detailed views of a stretching device of an apparatus according to the present invention, shown in different operating conditions;

- Figure 3 is a side view of an apparatus according to the present invention;

- Figure 4 is a detailed perspective view of a stretching device of the apparatus according to the present invention, carrying the tubular fabric and a portion of a reinforcement sheet material;

- Figure 4A is a schematic side view of an apparatus according to the present invention comprising two stretching devices;

- Figures 5A and 5B are further perspective views of an apparatus according to the present invention;

- Figures 6A-6C are schematic representations of steps of engaging the portion of reinforcement sheet material onto the tubular step, executed by means of a connecting station of the apparatus according to the present invention;

- Figure 7 schematically shows a step of cutting a fabric, executed in the connecting station of the apparatus according to the present invention.

DEFINITIONS AND CONVENTIONS

It should be pointed out that in the present detailed description, corresponding parts shown in the various figures are designated with the same numerals. The figures may show the object of the invention by means of representations that are not to scale; therefore, parts and components shown in the figures and related to the object of the invention may refer to schematic representations only.

Control unit The apparatus described and claimed herein can comprise at least one control unit designed to control operating conditions implemented by the apparatus itself. The method described and claimed herein can use a control unit so as to control the means used for executing one or more of the steps of the method itself.

The control unit can be a single control unit or include a plurality of distinct control units, depending on design choices and operating requirements.

The wording "control unit” designates an electronic component that can comprise at least one of: a digital processor (CPU), an analogical circuit, or a combination of one or more digital processors with one or more analogical circuits. The control unit can be "configured” or "programmed” for executing some steps: this can be done in practice with any means allowing to configure or program the control unit. For instance, in case of a control unit including one or more CPUs and one or more storages, one or more programs can be stored in suitable storage banks connected to the CPU or CPUs; the program or programs contain instructions which, when executed by the CPU or CPUs, program or configure the control unit for executing the operations described in relation to the control unit. As an alternative, if the control unit is or includes analogical hardware, the circuit of the control unit can be designed for including hardware configured, in use, for processing electric signals so as to execute the steps related to the control unit.

Actuator

The term "actuator” designates any device that is able to cause a movement on a body, e.g. upon command by the control unit (the actuator receives a command sent by the control unit). The actuator can be electric, pneumatic, mechanic (spring-type), oleodynamic or of other type.

Fabric

The term "fabric” designates a manufactured item made of sheet material having two dimensions, generally length and width, which are definitely higher than a third dimension defined by thickness. The fabric can be manufactured by weaving yarns made of natural and/or synthetic material.

In the present description, the wording "tubular fabric” T designates a fabric that can be manufactured with circular knitting machines, having a through seat extending along a longitudinal development of the tubular fabric T itself between a first and second end portion. The through seat is delimited inside by an inner surface T opposed to an outer surface T e : the difference between the inner and outer surface of the tubular fabric defines the thickness of the fabric T. The tubular fabric T can be single layer or multilayer or it can exhibit one or more single layer portions and one or more portions of multilayer material.

In the present description the term "fabric” F designates a reinforced fabric having one or more fabric layers obtained by means of the tubular fabric T and one or more layers of reinforcement sheet material R. As a matter of fact, the reinforced fabric F is defined by a multilayer fabric in which at least one of said layers is in reinforcement sheet material.

In the present description the wording "reinforcement sheet material” R designates a material having a stiffness that is higher than a stiffness of a fabric obtained from the tubular fabric T. For instance, the reinforcement sheet material R can comprise one or more layers of fiber material and/or fabric obtained by weaving with suitable looms (rectilinear knitting machines) which, thanks to weft and warp knitting, can manufacture fabrics with a high structural stiffness, as is suitable for producing assembled textile items.

Fiber material

The wording "fiber material” designates a material obtained with fibers of various nature, e.g. fabric, non- woven material, knitted fabric or combinations of one or more of the aforesaid supports.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Apparatus

The numeral 1 globally designates an apparatus for producing fabrics F, in particular reinforced fabrics, to be used for manufacturing assembled textile items such as e.g. jackets, trousers, men's suits, women's dresses or other textile items obtained by assembling a plurality of fabric parts.

As shown in Figure 1, the apparatus 1 comprises a positioning station 2, carried by a propping frame 1a and configured for receiving, supporting and stretching at least one tubular fabric T. The positioning station 2 comprises at least one stretching device 3 configured for contacting at least one portion of the inner surface T, defining the through seat of the tubular fabric T.

The stretching device 3 comprises at least a first and a second rod 6, 7 carried by a supporting frame 8 and extending along respective directions of main development that are basically parallel to one another. In detail, the first rod 6 comprises a cylindrical body, extending along an axis of rotation X parallel to the direction of main development of the first rod 6 between a first and a second longitudinal end: the axis of rotation X is integral with and gets through the center of said first rod 6. The cylindrical body of the first rod 6 is configured for contacting the inner surface of the tubular fabric T; the cylindrical body can comprise an outer coating made of plastics, extending almost on the whole development of the rod and configured for contacting the tubular fabric T so as to define with the latter a sufficient friction to reduce the possibility of relative slipping between rod and fabric T during a rotation of the rod. The first rod 6 comprises, basically on the first longitudinal end portion, at least one engagement portion engaged to the supporting frame 8. This engagement portion is hinged to the supporting frame so that the first rod can rotate around its axis X with respect to the supporting frame 8 and in particular with respect to the propping frame 1 a of the apparatus 1. Similarly, the second rod 7 comprises a respective cylindrical body, extending along an axis of rotation Y parallel to the direction of main development of the second rod 7 between a respective first and a second end: the axis of rotation Y is integral with and gets through the center of said second rod 7. The cylindrical body of the second rod is configured for contacting the inner surface of the tubular fabric T; also the cylindrical body of the second rod 7 can comprise an outer coating made of plastics, configured for contacting the tubular fabric T so as to define with the latter a sufficient friction to reduce the possibility of relative slipping between rod 7 and fabric T during the rotation of the rod 7. The second rod 7 comprises, basically on the first longitudinal end portion, at least one engagement portion engaged to the supporting frame 8. This engagement portion is hinged to the supporting frame 8 so that the second rod 7 can rotate around its axis Y with respect to the supporting frame 8 and in particular with respect to the propping frame 1 a of the apparatus 1.

The first and the second rod 6, 7 are movable approaching and getting away from each other along a transversal direction, optionally an orthogonal direction, with respect to the direction of main development of at least one of the first and second rod 6, 7. In particular, the first and the second rod 6, 7 are movable with respect to one another between a close position, in which the first and the second rod 6, 7 are arranged at such a distance as to allow the tubular fabric T to be fitted, and a distanced position, in which the first and the second rod 6, 7 are arranged at such a distance as to allow the tubular fabric T to be stretched. In the distanced position, the first and the second rod 6, 7 are placed at a higher distance than in the close position; these distances are measured along a direction orthogonal to the main development of the first and/or second rod 6, 7. Some steps of moving the rods 6, 7 are shown in Figures 2A-2C.

Figure 2A schematically shows a step in which the tubular fabric T is fitted onto the first and second rod 6, 7; the rods get into the through seat of the tubular fabric. Figure 2B schematically shows an initial step in which the tubular fabric T is stretched, wherein the rods 6, 7 are moved away from each other. Figure 2C schematically shows a final step in which the tubular fabric T is completely stretched and the first and second rod 6, 7 are in distanced position. In other words, in distanced position the first and the second rod 6, 7 are configured for arranging the tubular fabric T according to a basically oval, closed path having an upper portion, a lower portion opposed to the upper portion, and a first and second connecting portion between the upper and lower portion. More in particular, the movement of the first and second rod 6, 7 between the close position and the distanced position, and vice versa, is defined as a shift of at least one of the first and second rod 6, 7 with respect to the propping frame 1 a.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the distance between the first and the second rod 6, 7 in the distanced position is defined so as enable a complete and uniform stretching of the tubular fabric T, thus avoiding wrinkles or creases, and can be further chosen so as to define the stretching degree and/or the appearance of the fabric depending on the item to be manufactured. The stretching device 3, in particular the first and/or the second rod 6, 7, can be heated, so as to draw the tubular fabric T arranged over the stretching device 3.

The stretching device 3 comprises at least one actuator 9 acting upon at least one of the first and the second rod 6, 7, configured for moving the latter by shifting them between the distanced position and the close position. In particular, the actuator 9 can comprise a hydraulic device, optionally a piston, or as an alternative an electric motor and an intermediate drive between the motor and at least one of the first and second rod 6, 7. The accompanying figures have shown in a non-limiting manner an actuator 9 comprising a motor configured for imparting a rotational motion to a drive that is able to convert the rotation motion provided by the motor into a rectilinear motion, and to transfer the latter to at least one of the first and the second rod 6, 7; as a function of the direction of rotation, the motor is able to move the rods between the distanced and close position, and vice versa.

As mentioned above, the first and the second rod 6, 7 are hinged to the supporting frame 8: the rods are therefore movable by rotation one with respect to the other around their axis. The stretching device 3 comprises at least one motor 10, in particular an electric motor, connected to at least one of the first and the second rod 6, 7 and configured for moving each rod 6, 7 according to a rotational motion with respect to the respective axes of rotation X, Y, so as to define at least one powered rod. Thanks to the rotation of the first and the second rod, the stretching device 3 can move the tubular fabric T around the rods 6, 7. The rotation of the rods 6, 7 can be activated during the movement of the latter from the distanced position to the close position: the correct stretching of the tubular fabric T allows the rods to define with the tubular fabric the friction required for moving the latter.

The accompanying figures show a schematic configuration in which the first rod 6 only is connected to the motor 10 and thus configured for defining a powered rod; the second rod 7 is neutral and configured for being set into rotation by the tubular fabric T moved directly by the first rod 6.

The movement by shifting and the rotation of the rods 6, 7 allow the tubular fabric T to be drawn (stretched). In the embodiment shows, the rods 6, 7 are movable both by shifting and by rotation. It is however possible to let the rods 6, 7 of the device 3 be moved by shifting only (movement between the close and distanced position) or be moved by rotation around its own axis only, for stretching the tubular fabric T.

The stretching device 3 is further movable with respect to the propping frame 1a at least between an operating position in which the stretching device 3 is aligned with the connecting station 5, as shall be better described in the following detailed description, and a second operating position, distanced from the first operating position, in which the stretching device 3 is configured for receiving the tubular fabric T and a reinforcement sheet material R.

As can be seen in the accompanying figures, the positioning station 2 can comprise at least one guide 2a, e.g. rectilinear, extending between a first and a second end portion; the guide carries in a stable manner the supporting frame 8 of the stretching device 3, which is movable along the guide 2a between the first and second end portion of the latter. The stretching device 3 placed on the first end portion of the guide 2a is basically in the first operating position, i.e. on the connecting station 5; the stretching device 3 placed on the second end portion of the guide 2a is distanced from the connecting station and designed to receive the tubular fabric with the reinforcement sheet material R. The movement of the stretching device 3 between the first and second operating position is managed by at least one actuator.

The stretching device 3 is further movable along an axis Z (Figure 2A) basically orthogonal to the direction of longitudinal development of the rods 6, 7 and basically orthogonal to a direction of movement of the device 3 from the first to the second operating position. As a matter of fact, with the apparatus 1 in use, the stretching device 3 is movable along a vertical direction. This movement can be managed by a further actuator, acting upon the stretching device 3 and configured for moving it along the axis Z. The tubular fabric T can be fitted onto the first and second rod 6, 7 by an operator performing a manual positioning operation. As an alternative, the apparatus 1 can comprise a pick-up station (not shown) configured for picking up the tubular fabric stored in the collecting station by means of a pick-up device. The pick-up station can comprise for instance a sucking system or pinching elements configured for catching the fabric in the collecting station and for fitting it onto the first and second rod 6, 7 in the close position.

The apparatus 1 further comprises a feeding station 4 for a reinforcement sheet material R that can be positioned on at least one portion of an outer surface T e , of the tubular fabric T, opposed to the inner surface T. As mentioned above, the reinforcement sheet material R comprises a fabric that can be manufactured by means of weaving looms and has a higher stiffness than the stiffness of the tubular fabric. The reinforcement sheet material (fabric) extends in thickness between two opposed surfaces. At least one of said opposed surfaced, the reinforcement sheet material R has a coating made of an adhesive material, e.g. glue. The adhesive coating can comprise discrete portions of adhesive material that are uniformly distributed on the whole fabric of the reinforcement sheet material, or it can comprise a continuous layer apt to coat at least one surface portion of the fabric of the reinforcement sheet material R.

In detail, the feeding station 4 comprises at least one coil 14, configured for providing the reinforcement sheet material R in a continuous manner, together with a powered unwinder, directly connected to the coil 14. Optionally, the unwinder is connected to the coil 14 by means of an intermediate drive, configured for imparting a rotational motion to the coil 14 and thus allowing the continuous sheet of reinforcement material R to be unwound.

The feeding station 4 can comprise a cutter 15, configured for cutting the continuous sheet of reinforcement material R, so as to define portions 4a (discrete sheets) of reinforcement material R. These portions 4a (discrete sheets) can be positioned, e.g. by an operator, on the tubular fabric T. As described above, the rods of the stretching device 3 are movable by rotation around their axis so as to move the tubular fabric T (e.g. the stretched tubular fabric); thanks to the movement of the rods 6, 7 and therefore of the tubular fabric T, the stretching device 3 can enable the movement of the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material placed on the fabric T.

The apparatus 1 thus comprises a connecting station 5 configured for cooperating with the stretching device 3, when in the first operating position, so as to allow the reinforcement sheet material R to be engaged to the tubular fabric T. In detail, the connecting station 5 comprises an adhesive treatment head 11 configured for engaging the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R onto the outer surface T e of the tubular fabric T. The adhesive treatment head 11 is movable between a raised position, in which it is distanced from the stretching device 3 in the first operating position, and a lowered position in which the adhesive treatment head 11 is close to the stretching device 3 in the first operating position and optionally partially in contact with the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material. The head 11 , in the lowered position, is configured for enabling the portion 4a to be engaged, optionally glued, to the tubular fabric T. As a matter of fact, in the lowered position the adhesive treatment head 11 lies at a smaller distance from the device 3, in the first operating position, than a distance of said head 11 from the device 3 still in the first operating position. As can be seen in the accompanying figures, in the first operating position and with the apparatus 1 in use, the stretching device 3 is vertically aligned with the connecting station 5 and in particular below the adhesive treatment head 11.

The connecting station 5 can further comprise at least one first actuator configured for moving (e.g. shifting) the adhesive treatment head 11 between the lowered position and the raised position, and vice versa. The first actuator can comprise an electric motor and an intermediate drive between the motor and the adhesive treatment head 11 : the motor is configured for imparting a rotational motion to the drive, which can convert the rotation motion provided by the motor into a rectilinear motion and to transfer the latter to the adhesive treatment head 11.

The adhesive treatment head 11 can comprise a heater for engaging the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R to the outer surface T e of the tubular fabric T. As a matter of fact, as described above, the reinforcement sheet material R can comprise a coating of adhesive material, e.g. glue, that can be placed in contact with the tubular fabric T. In this configuration, the heater is configured for applying under heat (heat sealing) the portion 4a on the fabric T: the heater melts the glue, which can then act as a binder between the portion 4a and the tubular fabric T. The adhesive treatment head can be further configured for exerting a pressure onto the portion 4a getting close to the tubular fabric T.

The connecting station 5 can comprise a propping element 12 that can be inserted into the through seat of the tubular fabric T with the stretching device 3 in the first operating position (aligned with the adhesive treatment head 11) and with the rods 6, 7 in the distanced position; in detail, the propping element 12 can be inserted between said first and second rod 6, 7 when in the distanced position. The propping element 12 is configured for supporting the tubular fabric T, optionally, the upper portion of the tubular fabric T directly facing the adhesive treatment head 11. As a matter of fact, the propping element 12 defines an intermediate element placed between the upper portion and the lower portion of the tubular fabric T.

The propping element 12 is movable along a direction parallel to the direction of development of said rods 6, 7, at least between an engaged position in which it is placed at least partially between said first and second rod 6, 7 and configured for supporting the tubular fabric T, and an extracted position in which it is at a distance from said first and second rod 6, 7. The connecting station 5 can further comprise at least one second actuator configured for moving the propping element 12 between the engaged position and the retracted position. The second actuator can comprise an electric motor and an intermediate drive between the motor and the propping element 12: the motor is configured for imparting a rotational motion to the drive, which can convert the rotation motion provided by the motor into a rectilinear motion and to transfer the latter to the propping element 12.

The connecting station 5 can further comprise a resting plate 13 opposed to the adhesive treatment head 11 and configured for supporting the stretching device 3 in the first operating position. The resting place 13 is movable between a lowered position and a raised position. The resting plate 13, in the lowered position and with the apparatus 1 in use, is placed below the adhesive treatment head 11, at a distance from the stretching device 3, while in the raised position the resting plate 13 is configured for contacting the lower portion of the tubular fabric T, opposed to the adhesive treatment head 11. In other words, the resting plate 13 defines a supporting element for the adhesive treatment head 11, so that said adhesive treatment head 11 can support the rods 6, 7 of the stretching device 3 at least during the lowered position of the adhesive treatment head 11. The connecting station 5 further comprises at least one third actuator configured for moving the resting plate 13 between the lowered position and the raised position, and vice versa. In particular, the third actuator can comprise a pneumatic or hydraulic piston, or an electric motor and an intermediate drive between the motor and the resting plate 13.

The connecting station 5 is configured for engaging the (discrete) portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R to the tubular fabric T so as to define a fabric F: the fabric F is basically represented by a reinforced fabric comprising a layer obtained from the tubular fabric and at least one layer (the reinforcement layer) defined by the reinforcement sheet material.

The apparatus 1 can comprise a cutting station 16 placed on the positioning station 2 and configured for cutting the (reinforced) fabric F exiting the connecting station. As a matter of fact, the fabric F exiting the connecting station 5 is still tubular in shape and around the first and second rod 6, 7; the cutting station 16 is configured for cutting through the fabric F along its whole longitudinal development so as to open it, so that said reinforced fabric F can be fully stretched along a plane.

The cutting station 16 can comprise a cutter, e.g. defined by one or more rotating blades and/or one or more knives, configured for contacting the fabric F tubular in shape and cutting through the latter so as to open the reinforced fabric F. The cutter is configured for shifting along a guide parallel to the direction of main development of the rods 6, 7; the cutter thus tears through the tubular fabric, which at the end of the cutting step can be fully stretched along a flat surface.

The apparatus 1 can further comprise at least one sensor, optionally an optical sensor, configured for detecting a marking element for the tubular fabric T, at least when the tubular fabric T is fitted onto the stretching device 3 and in particular with the first and second rod 6, 7 arranged in the distanced position. The marking element can be defined by a particular seam or 'patern' made on the outer T e and/or inner surface T of the tubular fabric T, which can be also seen after positioning the portion 4a on the tubular fabric T and at least in the distanced condition of the first and second rod 6, 7. The sensor is configured for generating a signal representing a position of the tubular fabric T arranged on the stretching device 3.

The apparatus 1 can comprise a control unit connected to the actuator 9 and to the motor 10 of the positioning station 2 and configured for controlling the relative movement between the first and the second rod 6, 7. In particular, the control unit is configured for sending suitable control signals to the actuator 9 so as to move the first and the second rod 6, 7 from the closed position to the distanced position, and vice versa. The control unit is further configured for sending suitable control signals to the motor 10 configured for moving each rod along the respective axis of rotation X, Y. In particular, the control unit is configured for controlling the rotation of at least one of the first and second rod 6, 7 at least during the relative movement of said first and second rod 6, 7 between the close position and the distanced position.

The control unit can be configured for receiving as input at least one parameter representing the size of the tubular fabric T to be fitted onto the stretching device 3, so that it can correctly control the actuator 9 of the stretching device 3 for adjusting the distance between the first and second rod 6, 7 in the distanced position. In particular, the representative parameter can be at least one of the diameter of the tubular fabric T, the circumference of the tubular fabric T and a length of the tubular fabric T.

Furthermore, the control unit is responsible for the movement of the stretching device 3 from the positioning station 2 to the connecting station 5 as described above (first and second operating position).

The control unit can be further connected to the first actuator, to the second actuator and to the third actuator of the connecting station 5, and be configured for controlling the first, second and third actuator so as to synchronize the movement of the adhesive treatment head 11 from the raised position to the lowered position with the movement of the propping element 12 in the engaged position and the movement of the resting plate 13 in the raised position.

It should be pointed out that the step in which the portion 4a of reinforcement material R is glued to the tubular fabric T is divided, in a non-limiting manner for the invention, into three sub-steps shown in the Figures 6A, 6B, 6C. The control unit is connected to the at least one sensor and configured for receiving as input the signal from said sensor, processing the signal so as to assess a position of the tubular fabric T on the stretching device 3 and, eventually, as a function of the assessment of the position of the tubular fabric, controlling the motor 10 connected to at least one of said first and second rod 6, 7 so as to adjust the movement of said tubular fabric T around said rods. Still more particularly, the control unit is configured for interrupting the rotation of each rod 6, 7 so that at least one of the first and the second longitudinal end of the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R is aligned with at least one of the first and the second rod 6, 7 (see for instance Figure 6A). This type of positioning allows to align possible wefts defined on the tubular fabric T with possible wefts defined on the discrete sheet of reinforcement material R.

Then, in a first sub-step, the control unit controls the first, second and third actuator so that a first length of the portion 4a is glued. The control unit therefore imparts another rotation to each rod 6, 7 so that a second length of the portion 4b, not yet engaged to the tubular fabric T, faces the adhesive treatment head 11 (Figure 6B). The control unit is configured for interrupting the rotation of each rod 6, 7 when it receives a suitable signal from the sensor detecting another marking element or after a predefined rotation of the first and/or second rod 6, 7. Thus the second length of the portion 4a is correctly aligned with the adhesive treatment head 11. Thanks to the control unit it is therefore possible to obviate problems involving the relative slipping of the tubular fabric T and the portion 4a, which might negatively affect the correct gluing of this last portion on the tubular fabric T : in other words, the control unit ensures the correct gluing of the whole portion 4a avoiding any wrinkle or crease.

The control unit therefore controls the first, second and third actuator so as to glue the second length 4a. The third sub-step shown in Figure 6C, in which a third length of the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R is glued, is identical with the sub-step executed for gluing the first and the second length.

The control unit is further connected to the motor for unwinding the coil 14. The control unit is configured for receiving as input a parameter representing a predefined amount of continuous sheet of reinforcement material R to be unwound, so that is can correctly control the motor for unwinding the coil 14, thus providing a discrete sheet of reinforcement material R having a predefined length.

Finally, the control unit is responsible for moving the stretching device 3 from the first to the second operating position and for controlling the cutting station 15 so that it tears the reinforced fabric F in tubular shape F as described in detail above.

By way of example, though in a non-limiting manner of the invention, the apparatus 1 can have a plurality of stretching devices 3 (e.g. a first and a second stretching device as shown in Figure 4A), each one being in accordance with the above description. The control unit is connected to each stretching device 3 and configured for synchronizing the movement of the stretching devices 3 between the positioning station 2 and the connecting station 5, and vice versa. In particular, the control unit is configured for positioning a first stretching device 3 in the first operating position (i.e. in the position in which the portion 4a is connected to the tubular fabric), while a second stretching device 3 is arranged in the second operating position for the steps of:

- fitting the tubular fabric T onto the first and second rod 6, 7,

- stretching the tubular fabric T,

- positioning the portion 4a on said tubular fabric.

Similarly, the control unit, connected to each stretching device 3, is configured for synchronizing the movement of the stretching devices 3 between the connecting station 5 and the cutting station 16.

It should be pointed out that the positioning of the tubular fabric on the first and second rod 6, 7 is wholly independent from the gluing of the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R, so as to execute some steps in parallel. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that also the cutting step is independent from the gluing of the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R, so as to execute also the cutting step in parallel.

Figure 4A shows two stretching devices 3 in which a stretching device 3 is in the second operating position, and another stretching device 3 in the first operating position, i.e. on the connecting station 5. The movement of the stretching devices 3 takes place along the guide 2a which, in the embodiment of Figure 4A, exhibits a lower portion for shifting a first stretching device 3, and a distinct upper portion for shifting a second stretching device 3.

Method

Another object of the present invention is a method, e.g. using an apparatus in accordance with the above description and/or in accordance with any one of the appended claims.

The method comprises a step of positioning the tubular fabric T on the first and second rod 6, 7 of the stretching device 3: both rods 6, 7 are thus located on the through seat of the tubular fabric T, at least partially in contact with the inner surface of said tubular fabric T. During this positioning the rods are in the distanced position.

Then the method comprises a step of relatively moving (shifting) the first and the second rod 6, 7 from the close position to the distanced position, together with the step of rotating the first and the second rod 6, 7 along the respective axes of rotation X, Y, so as to allow the tubular fabric T to be stretched. The step of relatively moving the rods 6, 7 can thus include shifting close to and away from together with a rotational movement. As an alternative, during the step of stretching the tubular fabric T, the method can include shifting the first and second rod 6, 7 from the close position to the distanced position only, or the relative rotation around its own axis of at least one of said first and second rod.

Furthermore, the method comprises a step of placing the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R in contact with at least one part of the outer surface of the tubular fabric T. In particular, this last step consists both in unwinding the coil 14 providing a continuous sheet of reinforcement material R and in cutting the continuous sheet of reinforcement material R so as obtain a portion 4a shaped as a discrete sheet.

The positioning of the tubular fabric T on the stretching device and the positioning of the portion 4a on the tubular fabric T can be performed by an operator or automatically by means of suitable stations in which fabrics are picked up and laid down.

The method, after positioning the portion 4a on the tubular fabric T, can include a step of adjusting the position of the portion 4a on the fabric by means of a step of moving the tubular fabric T around the rods 6, 7 by rotating the latter in the same direction. The rods are rotated until the portion 4a is flush with one of them; this step can be executed so that possible wefts of the portion 4a of sheet material are aligned with the tubular fabric T. This step can be managed by the control unit of the apparatus or by means of a sensor, e.g. an optical sensor, and the presence of marks on the tubular fabric T can assess the position of the latter on the rods of the stretching device 3. During the step of positioning the tubular fabric T and the portion 4a, the stretching device 3 is in the second operating position; the method further comprises the step of moving the stretching device 3 on the connecting station 5, i.e. shifting the stretching device 3 from the second to the first operating position, so that the connecting station 5 can execute a step of engaging the portion 4a onto the tubular fabric T.

This latter step can include a step of engaging, e.g. gluing, the portion 4a onto at least one portion of the outer surface of the tubular fabric T. The engagement can include a step of heating the coating layer carried by the portion 4a and comprising for instance a heat adhesive material: the engagement of the portion 4a is therefore executed under heat. Thus a fabric F having a tubular shape is obtained, at least partially coated with a discrete sheet of reinforcement material R, thus defining a reinforced fabric F. In particular, the reinforced fabric F is obtained after executing at least one gluing step, optionally three gluing steps, in accordance with the above descriptions and with Figures 6A - 6C.

In particular, this engagement step includes moving the adhesive treatment head 11 to the lowered position so that the latter can engage, in particular glue under heat, a first length of the portion 4a onto the tubular fabric T. Then the adhesive treatment head is moved to the raised position and the tubular fabric is rotated so as to be able to position at least one second length of the portion 4a in an engagement position facing the adhesive treatment head 11 ; then the head 11 is moved back to the lowered position so that also said second length of the portion 4a can be engaged, i.e. glued under heat, to the tubular fabric T. Finally, the head 11 is switched back to the raised position and the fabric is rotated again so that a third length of the portion can be moved to the engagement position facing the head 11 ; then the head 11 is moved back to the lowered position so as to engage, e.g. glue under heat, the third length of the portion 4a to the tubular fabric. Thus, by means of the three steps in which the adhesive treatment head 11 is moved and the tubular fabric is rotated, the method ensures the engagement of the whole portion 4a to at least one part of the outer surface of the tubular fabric.

During the engagement step, the propping element 12 can be kept in the engaged position, while the resting plate 13 is kept in the raised position so as to support, during the engagement (gluing) steps, the fabric and the stretching device 3.

Finally, the method comprises the step of moving the stretching device 3 from the first to the second operating position so that the reinforced (coated) tubular fabric can be positioned on the cutting station 16 in which the cutter cuts (opens) the fabric F in tubular shape so as to obtain the reinforced fabric F to be stretched on a plane. This step of cutting the fabric F in tubular shape can be performed before a step in which the fabric F is removed from the stretching device 3.

The method can include the use of at least two stretching devices 3. While a first stretching device 3 is arranged in the first operating position for connecting the portion 4a to the tubular fabric, a second stretching device 3 is arranged in the second operating position so that the tubular fabric T can be fitted onto the rods 6, 7 of said second stretching device and the portion 4a can be arranged above said tubular fabric. As a matter of fact, the method can thus execute a step of connecting to the portion 4a to a tubular fabric so as to defined a reinforced fabric F and start at the same time the preparation of a second tubular fabric to be reinforced in the positioning station 2.

The method can further include a step of cutting the flat (reinforced) fabric F according to predefined lines so as to obtain one or more parts of a textile item to be assembled: this cutting step can be performed by using paper patterns or templates. For instance, these paper patterns can be configured for defining a plurality of parts of a men's jacket. By choosing a suitable size of the diameter of the cylinder of the circular machine it is possible to obtain open pieces of reinforced fabric having suitable sizes with respect to the paper patterns or templates to be used, so as to minimize fabric waste. Thanks to the use of a plurality of circular machines with suitable diameters it is possible to obtain a plurality of pieces of reinforced fabric suitable for respective paper patterns or templates. The method can further comprise a step of assembling a plurality of parts obtained from the reinforced fabric F or from a plurality of reinforced fabrics F for manufacturing an assembled textile item, in particular a jacket, a pair of trousers, a men's suit, a women's dress or other textile products assembled from a plurality of parts.

Assembled textile item

The invention further relates to an assembled textile product, in particular a jacket, a pair of trousers, a men's suit, a women's dress or another textile product assembled from a plurality of parts of fabric, comprising a plurality of parts of fabric cut from one or more open pieces of fabric, wherein at least one of such parts of fabric consists of a portion of knitted tubular fabric made by means of a circular knitting machine for hosiery or by means of a knitting machine for knitwear and having a heat adhesive material applied under heat onto at least one portion of a surface of the fabric. A plurality of parts of fabric of the textile product can consist of portions of tubular knitted fabric made by means of a circular knitting machine for hosiery or by means of a knitting machine for knitwear and having a heat adhesive material applied under heat onto at least one portion of a surface of the fabric. In an embodiment, the part of fabric or the parts of fabric made by means of a circular knitting machine for hosiery or by means of a knitting machine for knitwear are provided with a heat adhesive material applied under heat onto a whole surface of the fabric or onto most of the surface of the fabric. In an embodiment, the heat adhesive material is applied onto an inner side of the assembled textile product.

Use

The fabric obtained with the apparatus and the method described above can be used for making various types of textile products, such as e.g.: jackets, trousers, men's suits, women's dresses, scarves, ties, skirts, underwear, lingerie, knitwear, technical items, sports items, medical items, other textile products assembled from a plurality of fabric parts.

ADVANTAGES OF THE INVENTION

The present invention achieves important advantages. As a matter of fact, the use of a stretching device 3 having rods 6, 7 that can be shifted approaching and getting away allows the device 3 to receive and adapt to tubular fabrics of different size, and allow at the same time to execute a correct step of stretching (tensioning) the tubular fabric T so as to remove creases. Another advantage can result from the possibility of rotating the rods 6, 7 around their own axis; thanks to the movement by rotation of the rods, the stretching device 3 can control the position of the tubular fabric T on the rods 6, 7 and promote at the same time the stretching thereof.

Thanks to the various movements (shifting and rotation) of the rods 6, 7, the stretching device 3 can easily move the tubular fabric T, thus also the portion 4a of reinforcement sheet material R, so as to rapidly and effectively engage the portion 4a onto the fabric T.