Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
COMPOSITE MOULD AND RELATED ASPECTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/216857
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A composite mould (10, 5) provides an improvement in three- dimensional moulded sheet (12) designs, particularly but not exclusively for sheets which are designed for use as flexible materials for the clothing industry and/or for use as a sensor surface (20, 40) material (12) for parts of a robot. Some examples of the composite mould (10, 5) comprise at least two separable aligned mould layers (14, 15) which, when aligned, form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance (8). Means to allow the liquid moulding substance (8) to escape is provided between the two aligned mould layers (14, 15) as pressure builds in the mould (10) as the moulding substance (8) solidifies. In various examples, this takes the form of a gap (30) which is created between two or more layers (1) of the composite mould (10, 5) if pressure rises above a threshold.

Inventors:
PASSI KIREN (GB)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2020/061361
Publication Date:
October 29, 2020
Filing Date:
April 23, 2020
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
PASSI KIREN (GB)
International Classes:
B29C33/00; B29C33/10; B29C43/18; B29C43/38; B29C44/58; B29C70/74; B29C70/78; B29C39/10; B29K105/08
Foreign References:
US20040247834A12004-12-09
EP1954476A12008-08-13
ES2335864T32010-04-06
US20180178441A12018-06-28
US20150218750A12015-08-06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CMS CAMERON MCKENNA NABARRO OLSWANG (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A composite mould for forming a three-dimensional moulded sheet design, the composite mould comprising:

at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance; and

means to allow the moulding substance to escape provided between the two aligned mould layers.

2. A composite mould as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the means to allow moulding substance to escape is configured to allow the liquid moulding substance to escape above a pressure threshold.

3. A composite mould as claimed in claim 2, wherein the pressure threshold is less than the pressure threshold at which the liquid moulding substance escapes along an outer surface of the mould adjacent a surface of a substrate on which the three-dimensional design layer is being formed.

4. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim dependent on claim 2, wherein the moulding substance expands to cause an increase in pressure as it solidifies above the pressure threshold or wherein pressure applied externally through a substrate surface on to which the three-dimensional design is to be formed and causes pressure to rise in the composite mould above the pressure threshold.

5. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the means to allow moulding substance to escape is provided by one or more escape regions between two adjacent layers of the composite mould.

6. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein by least one of the adjacent surfaces of the at least two aligned layers has a surface roughness which allows the liquid moulding substance to escape at a higher viscosity than the liquid moulding surface viscosity which can escape along the mould surface facing the surface of the substrate onto which the three-dimensional designer layer is to be formed.

7. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the substrate surface onto which the three-dimensional design is to be applied comprises a sheet of flexible material or fabric.

8. A composite mould as claimed in claim 7, wherein the material comprises one or more of: a netting or mesh material, a flock material, a felt-like material.

9. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the liquid moulding substance comprises a silicone substance.

10. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the mould is configured to allow the liquid layer of moulding substance to include one or more types of additional components which are retained in the three-dimensional moulded design.

1 1. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the additional components comprise:

one or more electronic components; and/or

one or more articles of surface decoration; and/or

one or more articles providing engaging parts of a fastener mechanism.

12. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the material created by the mould is suitable for making one or more of the following types of technical clothing:

protective clothing; and/or

sports clothing; and/or

dance clothing.

13. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim dependent on claim 11 or claim 12, wherein the substrate surface is a flexible substrate and the components are electronic sensor components and the composite mould is used to form a flexible sensor surface on the flexible substrate.

14. A composite mould as claimed in claim 13, wherein the flexible sensor surface comprises one or more electronic sensor components which are embedded in the solid moulding substance, wherein the electronic sensor components comprise one or more:

pressure sensors; and/or

touch sensors; and/or

proximity sensors; and/or

thermal sensors; and/or

radiation sensors; and/or

chemical sensors; and/or

atmospheric sensors.

15. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the one or more of the composite mould layers are formed using a 3-D printer.

16. A composite mould as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the upmost layer in use of the composite mould is open.

17. A moulded three-dimensional material flexible material formed using a mould according to any previous claim.

18. A method of creating a flexible sheet of material, the method comprising:

forming a substantially planar composite mould as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 16, wherein the at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance are substantially planar mould layers and wherein the means to allow the moulding substance to escape comprises a gap created above a pressure threshold between two of the aligned mould layers;

filling the composite mould with a liquid moulding substance;

causing the liquid moulding substance to solidify in the said composite mould, wherein as the liquid moulding substance solidifies, some of the liquid moulding substance escapes between at least two of the mould layers; and

removing the solidified three-dimensional design from the composite mould.

19. A method as claimed in claim18, further comprising:

placing one or more components in the composite mould, wherein the moulded three- dimensional material formed includes one or more or all of the components placed in the mould.

20. A method as claimed in claim 18 or 19, further comprising:

applying a pressure or a vacuum for a predetermined duration of time to the material to cause the liquid form of the moulding substance to be fixedly attached to the surface of a substrate material as the moulding substance solidifies to forms a three-dimensional surface design on a surface of substrate material; and/or

applying a temperature for a predetermined duration of time to mould and the material as the moulding substance solidifies and forms the three-dimensional surface design on the material surface.

Description:
COMPOSITE MOULD AND RELATED ASPECTS

The present disclosure relates to a composite mould and related aspects for forming a three- dimensional design, for example, a three-dimensional design as or on a flexible material such as a fabric or as a three-dimensional layer on a deformable substrate. In particular, but not exclusively to a laminar or layered mould for forming a design on substrates which have porous and/or flexible properties such as fabrics and similar materials used in the clothing industry. In particular but not exclusively, the mould provides a way to apply a three-dimensional layer which form a pattern or decorative relief, on a support layer or substrate formed of a sheet of fabric or similar woven or non-woven textile or material. In particular, but not exclusively, to a composite mould which allows better quality flexible moulded fabrics to be formed and/or allows an improved quality of surface design to be to be formed on a permeable material such a mesh fabrics.

BACKGROUND

Methods for forming three-dimensional surface designs on flexible substrates such as sheets of fabric and similar materials are known in the art. It is known problem however, for surface designs which are formed on fabric layers to suffer quality issues and the application process to result in design imperfections as the moulding element, typically a silicone resin applied as a liquid to the mould, escape from the confines of the mould elements used to retain them as the fabric to which the design is being applied is pressed against the surface of the liquid to facilitate the bonding process as the moulding element solidifies (or cures, in the case of the silicone resin). The result is that portions of the moulding element solidify on the surface outside the design area determined by the confines of the mould. The resulting unwanted elements then need to be removed or the moulding process reattempted in order to improve the quality of the design and reduce or eliminate unwanted elements left over from the manufacturing process.

United States Patent Application US2015/0218750 for example, discloses a method for producing an embossed design on a fabric sheet or surface panel of a garment, and the final pattern piece made by this method. A fabric sheet is embossed with a pattern using an embossing die pair. A mesh interfacing sheet has resin elements fused to it in the same pattern by a similar embossing die pair. When the resin elements are in a pattern of singular, scattered motifs, the mesh interfacing sheet is cut in such a manner that all of the resin elements within the mesh interfacing piece are whole, and no resin elements touch or are close to the edges of the cut sheet. In the case of a continuous pattern, the closest distance between an edge of the mesh interfacing sheet and the final fabric pattern piece will be at least 0.5 inch. The cut mesh interfacing piece is aligned and fused with the embossed fabric piece, and the composite fabric piece is cut to make a final pattern piece. This method produces final pattern pieces that do not have resin material running into the portions that will be sewn to other fabric pieces. These final pattern pieces have a marginal area around the peripheral edges where there is no resin-filled elements and where a seam may be sewn. Thus, there will be no sewing of a seam through any of the resin-filled elements. As a result, pieces with raised embossing elements may be sewn to other pieces to construct a garment which appears to have continuous raised embossing elements.

The present invention seeks to alleviate, obviate and/or mitigate problems associated with unwanted leaks onto the surfaces around the areas where a surface design is being formed by providing an improved mould design for retaining liquid elements which are to fuse to a flexible material.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Various examples of aspects and embodiments of the invention are as defined in the accompanying claims.

A composite mould provides an improvement in three-dimensional moulded sheet designs, particularly but not exclusively for sheets which are designed for use as flexible materials for the clothing industry and/or for use as a sensor surface material for parts of a robot. Some examples of the composite mould comprise at least two separable aligned mould layers which, when aligned, form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance. Means to allow the liquid moulding substance to escape is provided between the two aligned mould layers as pressure builds in the mould as the moulding substance solidifies. In various examples, this takes the form of a gap which is created between two or more layers of the composite mould if pressure rises above a threshold.

Various embodiments are disclosed which relate to a composite mould for forming a three- dimensional design and/or for forming a three-dimensional design as a surface design layer on a substrate is provided. The composite mould comprises at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance and means to allow the moulding substance to escape provided between the two aligned layers.

Some of the disclosed embodiments comprise a composite mould for forming a three-dimensional moulded design, the composite mould comprising: at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance; and means to allow the moulding substance to escape provided between the two aligned layers. In some of the disclosed embodiments, the means to allow moulding substance to escape is configured to allow the liquid moulding substance to escape above a pressure threshold.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the pressure threshold is less than the pressure threshold at which the liquid moulding substance escapes along an outer surface of the mould adjacent a surface of a substrate on which the three-dimensional design layer is being formed.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the moulding substance expands to cause an increase in pressure as it solidifies above the pressure threshold.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, pressure is applied through the substrate surface on which the three-dimensional design is to be formed causing pressure to rise in the composite mould above the pressure threshold.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the means to allow moulding substance to escape is provided by one or more escape regions between two adjacent layers of the composite mould.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, one or more of the escape regions between two adjacent layers of the composite mould is provided by a gap or channel.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, at least one of the adjacent surfaces of the at least two aligned layers has a surface roughness which allows the liquid moulding substance to escape at a higher viscosity than the liquid moulding surface viscosity which can escape along the mould surface facing the surface of the substrate onto which the three-dimensional designer layer is to be formed.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, at least one layer of the composite mould is formed from wood, explored wood, acrylic, plastic, silicone, cardboard.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the surface onto which the three-dimensional design is to be applied comprises a sheet of material.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the sheet of material is one or more of: a porous material; a non-porous material; a woven material; a non-woven material. In some of the disclosed embodiments, the material comprises one or more of: a netting or mesh material, a flock material, a felt-like material.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the liquid moulding substance comprises a silicone substance.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the mould is configured to allow the liquid layer of moulding substance to include one or more types of additional components which are retained in the three-dimensional moulded design.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the additional components comprise: one or more electronic components; one or more articles of surface decoration; one or more articles providing engaging parts of a fastener mechanism.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the material created by the mould is suitable for making one or more of the following types of technical clothing: protective clothing; and/or sports clothing; and/or dance clothing.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the components are wireless electronic components;

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the three dimensional design or the design surface layer formed using the mould comprises a flexible material comprising electronic components. In some embodiments the substrate onto which the design surface layer formed using the mould is also flexible in at least one of same directions as the three dimensional design is flexible. In one embodiment, the three-dimensional design includes one or more sensor components and forms a flexible sensor design, for example, as a surface design on a flexible substrate.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the flexible sensor surface comprises one or more functional components, for example, one or more pressure sensors; touch sensors; proximity sensors; thermal sensors; radiation sensors; chemical sensors; and/or atmospheric sensors.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, one or more of the composite mould layers are formed using a 3-D printer.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the mould is open in an upmost layer.

Some of the example embodiments disclosed comprise a moulded three-dimensional material flexible material formed using a disclosed example embodiment of a composite mould.

Some of the example embodiments disclosed comprise a method of creating a flexible material , the method comprising: forming a laminar composite mould, for example, from a plurality of mould layers; filling the laminar mould with a liquid moulding substance, for example, a silicone liquid moulding substance; causing the liquid moulding substance to solidify in the said laminar composite mould; and removing the solidified three-dimensional design from the laminar mould.

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the method further comprises placing one or more components in the laminar composite mould, wherein the moulded three-dimensional material formed includes one or more or all of the components placed in the mould. Such components may be decorative (e.g. sequins, jewels, or another decorative article) and/or functional components (e.g. a sensor or sensor component or a circuit component).

In some of the disclosed embodiments, the method further comprises applying a pressure (or a vacuum) for a predetermined duration of time to the material to cause the liquid form of the moulding substance to be fixed attached to the surface of the material as the moulding substance solidifies and forms the three-dimensional surface design on the material surface. In some of the disclosed embodiments, the method further comprises applying a temperature for a predetermined duration of time to mould and the material as the moulding substance solidifies and forms the three-dimensional surface design on the material surface.

The features described in the context of a particular embodiment or aspect may be combined with features described in the context of any other embodiment or aspect described herein where some motivation for such a combination would be apparent to someone of ordinary skill in the art. In particular, method aspects and embodiments may be applied to apparatus aspects.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1A is a schematic drawing of a mould base layer according to a first example embodiment of the invention;

Figure 1 B is a schematic drawing of a mould upper layer according to the first example embodiment of the invention;

Figure 1C is a schematic drawing of a composite mould according to the first example embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 is a schematic drawing of a material to which a three-dimensional surface pattern has been created using a mould according to the first example embodiment of the invention;

Figure 3 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the composite mould of Figure 1 C in use;

Figure 4a is a schematic cross-sectional view of composite mould of Figure 3 in use;

Figure 4b is a schematic cross-sectional view of a unibody mould;

Figure 5a is a schematic drawing showing a magnified view of a three-dimensional surface pattern created using a composite mould according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 5b is a schematic drawing showing a three-dimensional surface pattern created using a unibody mould;

Figures 6a and 6b are schematic cross-section diagrams across the composite mode of Figure 1 C in use according to an embodiment of the invention; and

Figure 7 shows schematically an example of a three-dimensional design created using the composite mould of Figure 1C.

Some examples of embodiments of the invention will now be described referring to the drawings. Elements known in the art to be necessary may not be explicitly shown in the drawings for clarity or described herein if their inclusion would be apparent to anyone of ordinary skill in the art for the sake of brevity.

Figure 1A shows an example of a base mould layer 1 having an example“X” or“cross” as a configuration of a design element 2 formed within its upper surface 18. The term mould is used here in the sense known in the art, for example, to mean a hollow, shaped container into which a liquid substance is poured so that it takes on the container's shape when it solidifies. Solidification may be chemically and/or thermally induced (for example, the liquid moulding substance may cool and set or be formed by mixing two substances which will only remain liquid for a certain amount of time after being mixed.

It will be apparent to anyone of ordinary skill in the art that the design element 2 is just shown as an X or cross by way of example, and any suitable design may be formed in the base mould layer 1 using a technique appropriate to whatever material the base layer 1 is formed of, for example, if plastic or acrylic it may itself be formed with the design element 2 by moulding or by etching, or carving etc. The design is three-dimensional and the design element 2 shown accordingly has side walls 3 and base 4 in base mould layer 1 to retain a suitable liquid moulding substance 8 (not shown in Figure 1 A) such as, for example, a silicon resin. Other moulding substances may also be used which may or may not be liquid initially (for example, a powder moulding substance which is transformed into a liquid in situ in the mould). The material from which the mould is constructed may be selected according to its suitability for the moulding substance 8 which is to form the design and related manufacturing constraints (for example, temperature, pressure constraints, the viscosity of the moulding substance) etc. The expansion of the moulding material as it solidifies within the mould may also be taken into account when selecting the moulding material and/or the way that a composite mould 10 is constructed.

Figure 1 B shows an example of an additional, in use an upper, mould layer 5 into which has a design element 2 provided has been applied which in this example is also a X or cross. Design element 2 in the mould upper layer 5 is formed from walls 6 however instead of a base layer, the base is open and an aperture 7 exists between the upper surface 20 of mould layer 5 and the base surface 22 of the upper mould layer 5. There is no need for the design element 2a in the upper layer 5 to be the same as that in the lower layer 1 , however, the two design elements 2a and 2b in practice will have sufficient surface area in common to allow the liquid mould substance to flow through the upper layer open mould base aperture 7 to the design element 2a liquid retaining area in lower layer 5.

Figure 1C shows an example embodiment of a composite mould 10 formed from a base mould layer 1 and upper (or open base) mould layer 5, by placing upper surface 18 of the base mould layer 1 and the base surface 22 of the upper mould layer 5 in contact. In other embodiments, additional mould layers may be provided having a form similar to the upper layer 5 shown in Fig, 1 B, for example, each may have at least a partially an open base, such that the liquid mould moulding substance can access all of the mould layers 1 , 5 which form the composite mould 10. In other embodiments, one or more so called upper or open base mould layers 5 may be provided on a substantially planar base layer 1 , such that the base of the lowest open base upper mould layer 5 is provided by the laminar base layer 1.

Figure 2 shows an example sheet of material 12 having a three-dimensional surface design element 14 formed from a solidified moulding substance 8 by using the composite mould 10 shown in Figure 1C. In Figure 12, in areas 16 around the base of the design element 14 where it has adhered to the sheet 12, there are no unwanted elements of the solidified moulding substance. The composite mould 10 allows liquid moulding substance 8 to escape between the layers 1 and 5 as pressure builds up internally, for example, when the moulding substance 8 expands and/or when pressure is applied through sheet 12 to help bond the sheet 12 to the liquid moulding substance 8 as it solidifies. If no pressure relief means is provided, for example, if there is no liquid escape mechanism is provided within the mould, as pressure builds up internally, the liquid moulding substance will seek to escape between the sheet 12 and the top surface which would result in unwanted elements of the mould substance forming on the sheet 12 around the design element 2 for example, in regions 16 around the base of the design element 2, as the mould substance solidifies. This is particularly a problem when the sheet 12 is formed of a mesh and/or porous and/or textured (for example, a flocked, furry or felt-like) material or any material which might overly absorb the liquid moulding substance.

Examples of composite moulds 10 according to embodiments of the invention are provided with suitable means of relieving pressure as the material onto which the design element provide by the mould is to be applied or embossed so as to prevent unwanted leaks of moulding substance onto the material. Examples of a suitable pressure mechanism in the composite mould is to form the composite mould layers from materials which will retain a liquid at a certain pressure range but which will allow liquid to preferentially escape from the mould cavities between the laminar layers 1 , 5 of the composite mould above a certain threshold pressure. The threshold pressure may be determined by the type of sheet material onto which the design is to be embossed, for example, mesh materials or other materials which are very porous and/or easily deformed, may result in the laminar layers allowing the mould material to escape at a lower pressure than might be for a less porous textile material such as leather or rubber etc.

Figure 3 is a schematic cross-sectional view across line A-A’ of the composite mould 10 of Figure 1 C. In the example embodiment of the composite mould 10 shown in Figure 3, upper mould layer 5 is located above mould base layer 1 and the level of engagement between the lower surface 22 of the upper mould layer 5 and the upper surface 18 of the lower mould layer 1 is sufficient to retain moulding substance 8 when this substance is first put into the mould recess formed by the design elements 2 in each layer 1 , 4 of the composite mould 10. Also shown in Figure 3 is a side view of a sheet of material 12, for example, a fabric, to which the substance 8 is to be bonded to form a three-dimensional surface design. In some embodiments, pressure is applied through the sheet 12 to force the sheet against the top surface of the liquid moulding substance 8. In other embodiments, such as are shown schematically in Figures 6a and 6b, internal pressure builds up as the liquid moulding substance solidifies to form a three-dimensional design. The composite mould 10 may be used to create a three-dimensional surface design upon a substrate 12 or to create a three-dimensional design which is unsupported by a substrate, i.e. formed on its own, such as is shown in Figure 7 described in more detail herein below.

It will be apparent to anyone of ordinary skill in the art that the substantially planar sheets to which the design element 2 is to be applied need not be substantially planar in all embodiments, and that it may be possible to deform the material to which the three-dimensional surface design is to be applied so that a composite mould according to the embodiments described herein could be used.

Figure 4a shows how, as the pressure is increased above a certain threshold instead of only forcing the sheet 12 against the top surface of the moulding substance 8 to allow the moulding substance 8 to bond to the sheet 12 as it solidifies, some of the moulding substance 8 escapes through gap 30 between the base 22 of the upper mould layer 5 and the upper surface 18 of the base mould layer 1 to form escaped moulding substance elements 32. The gap 30 provides a means of relieving the pressure and prevents the build-up of pressure causing the liquid moulding substance 8 to escape along an alternative route to the surface where the sheet 12 abuts the top of the mould 10. This results in a clean surface design 2 such as is shown schematically in part in Figure 5a. Those of ordinary skill in the art will find it apparent that only external pressure sources are shown in Figure 4a, however, instead or in addition, pressure may build internally as the moulding substance solidifies, for example, if the moulding substance expands as it solidifies. Such expansion may also be controlled by temperature (not shown).

Figure 4b shows an example of a unibody mould 34 without such a pressure relief mechanism. In this embodiment, as pressure increases, the moulding substance instead escapes at the surface of the mould against the sheet 12 to form unwanted mould elements 36 which adhere to the sheet and compromise the three-dimensional design 2 formed on the surface of the sheet 12 in regions 16. The results can be seen in Figure 5b which shows schematically part of the resulting compromised surface design 2 having how unwanted surface elements 36 in the regions 16 of the sheet 12 around the edge of the area where the design has been formed.

The above description illustrates how a mould can be provided which results in improvements in 3D surface designs which may be formed on materials using moulding substances such as silicone. The technique allows great design flexibility as mould designs can be drawn and 3D electronic versions of the mould design created using, for example, Rhino files or the like. These can then be created using suitable materials, including silicone, plastic, acrylic, wood, explored wood, and also 3-D printing materials if the mould designs are to be printed in 3D. Vacuum form moulds may also be used,

In one embodiment, the base mould layer is first routed out, for example, using a computer- controlled cutting machine or router, for example, a computer numerical control (CNC) router cutting machine, followed by subsequent layers. Alternatively, all layers may be created at the same time from one or more blocks of material which are subsequently horizontally sliced to form the mould layers. A computer-controlled cutting machine enables a three-dimensional design created either digitally or transferred to a digital medium to be used. The cutting machine forms a three-dimensional design within suitably hard mould layer materials, for example, such as wood, composite materials, aluminium, steel, plastics, glass and foams.

In one embodiment, the base mould layer 1 is cut with the pattern (also referred to as a design element herein) 2 of the design. Then the upper mould layers 5 are formed with corresponding design elements. A suitable lubricant may be applied in some embodiments, such as wax, depending on the moulding substance 8 being used. A moulding substance 8 may be a form of silicone, for example, 3481 grade silicone or another suitable silicone.

In one embodiment, a condensation cure silicone with a Room Temperature Vulcanisation (RTV), is used as the moulding substance 8. In one example embodiment, this uses a tin-based catalyst (at a suitable base to catalyst ratio, for example, 100/10 base to catalyst) and contains pigment and silicone oil when used as the liquid moulding substance. Such a liquid moulding substance which cured results in a coloured rubber three-dimensional surface design. A fast catalyst can be used and the moulding substance degassed around 2 minutes from the point of collapse. This allows 30 minutes typically to pour the liquid moulding substance into the mould, to attach the fabric on top.

Whilst in Figures 3 and 4a, 4b have shown pressure being applied through the fabric to the mould, in some examples, it is the moulding substance that expands as it solidifies and this results in the escape of the moulding substance. This expansion can happen in addition or instead of any pressure being applied through sheet 12 to the liquid moulding substance 8.

Typical dimensions for the depth of the mould recess or cavity in each mould layer are 1 mm to 3mm in depth, which result for example, if two layers form the composite mould in a surface design thickness of 2mm to 6mm on the material being achieved.

The sheet 12 may be formed from a woven or non-woven material, and may include mesh or netting type materials.

In some examples, the composite mould 10 allows a three-dimensional design to be created without a bonding surface to support the three-dimensional design. Figure 6a shows how composite mould 10 may be used to create a three dimensional design which does not require a supporting substrate 12, for example, such as Figure 7 shows. In Figure 6a, no substrate or sheet 12 is pressed against the upper surface 22 of the upper mould layer 5 for the three-dimensional design 2 to adhere to as the moulding substance 8 solidifies (e.g. cures). Instead, as the moulding substance 8 solidifies, if as it solidifies it also expands, internal pressure builds up. This may also cause the moulding substance 8 to rise above the edge of the moulding cavity/cavities (also referred to herein as the composite mould recess(es)) which define the design element 2 in the upmost mould layer 5. This can be controlled and reduced and/or eliminated by the provision of a suitable pressure escape means between the laminar mould layers 1 , 5 of the composite mould 10. For example, a suitable pressure relief can be provided if the mould layers 1 , 5 are forced apart to form a gap 30 by the pressure build up. Alternatively, or instead, the mould layer surfaces 18, 22 may be provided with a sufficient level of surface roughness or irregularity to facilitate the forming of gap 30 via which the moulding substance 8 can escape when under pressure. By selecting the way that the gap 30 forms, it is possible to control the expansion of the moulding substance 8 at the upmost surface 20 of the composite mould 10, and preferably prevent the surface 40 of the moulding substance 8 from overspilling beyond the top edge of the design element 2 of the upper mould layer 5. This allows for a clean three-dimensional moulded design to be created with no or very little moulding substance in areas 16 around the periphery of the design formed from the mould. In some examples, the upper surface 40 of the moulding substance 8 may rise slightly above the surface 20 of the upper mould layer 5 as it solidifies (as is shown in Figure 6b) but there is no overspill into the surrounding regions 16.

In some embodiments, optionally, and also shown in Figure 6a and 6b, additional components 42, 44 and 46 are placed in the moulding substance 8 prior to its solidification. Components 42, 44, and 46 may remain hidden within the moulding substance 8 such as additional components 44 and 46 are in Figure 6b or they may be visible in the solidified product and/or partially protrude from a surface of the solidified moulded material 8. Figure 7 shows as an example how a component 42 may be exposed in the surface 40 of the moulded material 8, but in other embodiments, where for example the three-dimensional design is being applied to a substrate or sheet 12, such additional functional components do not need to be visible in the three-dimensional design formed.

In some embodiments, one or more of the components 42, 44, 46 is decorative (e.g. the components may comprise sequins, crystals, pearls and similar jewels, and the like). In some embodiments, one or more or all of the components 42, 44, 46 provides a function, such as by comprising fastening component such as a hook or eye of a hook and eye combination or a press- stud engagement element. In an embodiments where components comprise electrical components, for example, a plurality of components may form an entire device, with each comprising a component, such that a flexible circuit layout is provided, or each component may comprise an entire device, for example, a sensor device or lighting device (e.g. a light emitting diode (LED) type of light) . Such devices may be provided with wireless or wired communications control interfaces and may be powered using internal batter resources, be wired for power with the wires being embedded in the moulding substance, or be capable of being self-powered, where for example, some level of depression or gyroscopic movement of the component within the moulding substance generates sufficient power to operate the component . Examples of sensors include touch sensors (which may be capacitive or resistive, and contact or hover (non-contact) touch sensors. Such electrical/electronic components may be provided as nano-scale electrical components or the like, which may be dimensioned at a scale where they are not readily visible to the human eye and/or they may be constructed on a scale where they are visible to the human eye.

In some embodiments, use of the composite mould 10 enables mesh or netting type of sheet materials 12 to be created. By preventing unwanted moulding substance 8 from forming in regions 16 around the periphery of the design 2, the materials do not require extensive finishing (e.g. by hand) to have a clean design. Such netting or mesh type moulded sheet materials 12 can be formed with sensors and/or other electronic components embedded within the moulded material. In some embodiments the moulding substance 8 may be a form of silicone as described hereinabove, and the composite mould 10 used to create a silicone netting sheet material.

In various examples, the moulding substance may form a three-dimensional design having a surface texture by including additional additives. For example, a flock surface can be created by adding a suitable power substance to the liquid moulding substance. In another example embodiment, if the mould is at least partially lined for example, using a surface finishing substance (for example, such as foil or another reflective substance, or painted, for example, or has a dye applied), a surface effect can be created on the three-dimensional design formed using the mould (for example, if the finishing substance is a foil or metallic paint, a shiny and/or reflective surface effect can be achieved).

According to an example embodiment of a composite mould 10, a surface pattern or relief is formed by holding the liquid form of the silicone in a mould so that the liquid form a pattern according to the mould 10. As the liquid silicon solidifies, it will attach to any material placed and pressed against it. In some examples, the material is a mesh fabric which is to have a 3D pattern moulded on it (see the slides). Especially for such materials, if the liquid moulding silicone expands as it solidifies or cures or if too much pressure is applied to the material when it is placed on a mould to press it against the liquid silicone, then the silicone will leak out of the areas where it is held by the composite mould 10. If no pressure relief mechanism is provided, this would mean the 3D pattern will show“leaks” where the liquid silicon has escaped out over the edge of the mould and this will result in a 3D pattern being formed on the mesh which includes the leaked areas of silicone (see Figure 5b). However, the composite mould 10 is provided with a pressure relief mechanism which allows liquid to escape or leak out of the mould at suitable points where it will not affect the 3D surface patter or relief formed on the material. The composite mould 10 is a laminar mould where liquid, instead of escaping between the top surface 20 of the upper mould layer 5 and the fabric layer 12 placed on the mould, it escapes between one or more of the laminar layers, for example, through one or more gaps 30 between the layers. Other examples of pressure relief mechanism could be used instead, for example, suitable valves may be formed in the base of base layer 1 , however, such a mechanism may compromise the design surface formed and also would be more costly and expensive to implement.

In some embodiments, the amount of pressure which is withstood until the liquid is able to escape between layers is controlled by clamping the laminar layers 1 , 5 of the composite mould 5 together. This increases the pressure which the composite mould 5 can withstand before liquid is able to escape through gap(s) 30 between layers.

The resulting materials having a silicone based surface three-dimensional design may be used in a variety of purposes as the silicone surface design will provide a protective element and also allow for materials to be incorporated such as, for example, decorative beads, jewels (e.g. pearls), etc., as well as functional components such as wired or wireless LED lights and/or electronic sensors.

Some examples of embodiments of a composite mould 10 provide a mould suitable for applying a layer of substance to a surface of a material to form a three-dimensional relief on the material, where the mould comprises at least two layers which are substantially aligned in use to form a recess for retaining a liquid form of the substance to be moulded to the surface where the adjacent surfaces of at least two of the layers re arranged to allow excess liquid to leak from the mould. As pressure builds up within the mould, for example, if pressure is applied when the surface of the material is placed against the liquid surface exposed by the mould to attach to the retained liquid as it solidifies or if the liquid moulding substance expands as it solidifies (or equivalently cures), the layers of the mould are arranged to allow an amount of leakage to occur. The amount of leakage may vary according to the pressure build up and this causes the liquid moulding substances to escape from the recessed regions of the mould 10 as a sheet of material 12 is applied to the top surface 22 of the upper mould layer 5 of the composite mould 10 along gaps 30 between the mould layers 1 , 4. The liquid then solidifies to form a three-dimensional relief on the material 12.

In some examples of the above embodiments, at least one surface of one of the layers is selected to cause a lower surface viscosity to be formed between the two layers than between the surface of the layer facing the material. In some examples of the above embodiments, the liquid layer of moulding substance includes one or more types of additional components which are retained in the substance moulded to the surface.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the additional components comprise: one or more electronic components including: electronic touch or proximity sensors; electronic lighting components; wireless communication components; audio components; electronic components having a thermal functionality; electronic components having a hazardous radiation detection functionality; self-powered components; chemical sensors; and/or atmospheric sensors; one or more articles of surface decoration; and/or one or more articles providing engaging parts of a fastener mechanism.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the additional components added to the liquid moulding substance include substances which create a surface texture or decorative effect, for example, foil, flock, sequins, jewels such as pearls or crystals.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the three-dimensional material created by the mould is suitable for making one or more of the following types of technical clothing: protective clothing; and/or sports clothing; and/or dance clothing. The protective clothing may include sports clothing where the three-dimensional material provides protection for joints and body parts for contact sports. The protective clothing may include armours for the soldiers where the three- dimensional material provides protection for joints and body parts. The mould may also be used to in the manufacture of footwear, for example, to provide protective elements for sports footwear.

In some examples of the above embodiments, least one layer of the mould is formed from wood, explored wood, acrylic, plastic, silicone, cardboard.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the material comprises at least partially one or more of: a porous material; a non-porous material; a woven material; a non-woven material. Examples include mesh or netting materials, felt, flock type materials including animal based materials.

In some examples of the above embodiments, clothing is formed by forming three-dimensional surface patterns on panels of sheet material. The sides of the panel sheets together can be glued together outside the design elements to form the clothing, for example, by using Wacker 007 glue to bonding the sides of the panels together. Other suitable bonding techniques may be used and the sheets may also be stitched together, and the design may be stitched if required in some example embodiments.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the liquid silicon substance has components for fasteners introduced prior to curing, for example, ties for fasteners such as metal press studs and the like.

In some examples of the above embodiments, the liquid moulding substance 8 comprises a silicone substance, for example, silicone grade 3481 or another grade condensation cure silicone. Preferably, the liquid moulding substance is a room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) silicone, but if required, heat can be applied to cure the liquid moulding substance in situ.

Some examples of embodiments of a method of creating a material providing a flexible surface having one or more embedded surface components, comprise applying a material to a composite mould as claimed in any of the above example embodiments, wherein the liquid from of the substance held in the mould includes one or more components, to fix the moulding substance as it solidifies to form a design on the surface of the material.

Some examples of embodiments of a method of creating a material providing a flexible surface having one or more embedded surface components comprise: applying a material to a composite mould as claimed in any of the above embodiments, wherein the liquid from of the substance held in the mould includes one or more components; and removing the material from the mould, the removed material including the moulded substance and one or more components embedded in the substance. In some examples of a method embodiment, the method further comprises; applying a pressure to the material to cause the liquid form of the substance to fix to the surface of the material as the liquid sets to form a solid form of the substance for a duration;

In some examples of embodiments of the invention, one or more wireless electronic components are added to the liquid or partially solidified moulding substance.

In some examples, the components are wired, and the mould is suitably configured to allow the wiring to be embedded in the solid form of the substance fixed to the surface of the material.

In some examples, the components are self-powered sensor components. In some examples, the components are externally powered components.

In some examples, the material forms a flexible sensor surface. The components may be embedded in the surface design to form a flexible sensor surface. The embedded components may include touch and proximity sensors and/or sensor components. In some examples, one or more layers of the mould are formed using a 3-D printer.

In some examples, electronic components comprise one or more: electronic sensor components; electronic lighting components; and/or wireless communications components.

In some examples, the electronic sensor components comprise one or more: touch sensors; proximity sensors; thermal sensors: radiation sensors, including light and/or ambient light sensors; chemical sensors; and/or atmospheric sensors.

Advantageously, by using a room temperature setting moulding substance and applying a very low amount of pressure or just allowing the moulding substance to expand, sensitive sensor electronics are not compromised by the fabrication of the flexible sensor surface using a composite mould according to embodiments of the invention. For example, in some embodiments, a suitable moulding substance for forming a flexible sensor surface is one which is liquid at room temperature and solidifies (a term used equivalently to cures herein) after a catalyst or the like is added after a certain amount of time. Examples of suitable moulding substances include silicone, for example, a RTV condensation cure silicon formed using a tin- based catalyst comprising a pigment and silicon oil.

In some examples of the above embodiments of a composite mould, the mould has at least two laminar layers comprise a base laminar layer and at least one other laminar layer. Ae base laminar layer includes at least one region arranged to receive the substance in a liquid form which is recessed within a planar surface portion of the base laminar layer. The at least one other laminar layer includes at least one aperture, each respective aperture having an outline which sufficiently conforms to the shape of a respective recessed region of the base laminar layer to allow the liquid moulding substance to flow via the upper layer into the recesses of the base layer and any intermediate layer. Each at least one other laminar layer has a first planar surface which in use conforms to the planar surface portion of the adjacent lower mould layer the adjacent mould layers are aligned. When aligned, the base surface of the laminar layer mould and facing surface of the base mould have a sufficiently high surface roughness to prevent the liquid moulding substance from leaking between the base mould and laminar layer unless some additional pressure builds up within the mould. This may be pressure from the moulding substance if it expands as it cures or it may be pressure is applied to the surface of the liquid, wherein the surface viscosity between the laminar layer and the base of the mould is lower than the surface viscosity between the top layer of the laminar layer mould and the material, such that in use of the mould, liquid escapes between the base and laminar layers of the mould when pressure is applied through the material to the surface of the liquid. In some examples, each layer of the composite mould retains 1 to 3 mm in depth of moulding substance.

In some examples, the thickness of each at least one other laminar layer is between about 1 to 3 mm.

It will be understood that the invention has been described herein above purely by way of example, and modification of detail can be made within the scope of the invention.

Embodiments of the present invention may be understood by reference to the following numbered paragraphs:

1. A composite mould for forming a three-dimensional moulded sheet design, the composite mould comprising:

at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance; and

means to allow the moulding substance to escape provided between the two aligned mould layers.

2. A composite mould according to paragraph 1 , wherein the means to allow moulding substance to escape is configured to allow the liquid moulding substance to escape above a pressure threshold.

3. A composite mould according to paragraph 2, wherein the pressure threshold is less than the pressure threshold at which the liquid moulding substance escapes along an outer surface of the mould adjacent a surface of a substrate on which the three-dimensional design layer is being formed.

4. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph dependent on paragraph 2, wherein the moulding substance expands to cause an increase in pressure as it solidifies above the pressure threshold.

5. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph dependent on paragraph 2, wherein pressure applied externally through a substrate surface on to which the three- dimensional design is to be formed and causes pressure to rise in the composite mould above the pressure threshold.

6. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the means to allow moulding substance to escape is provided by one or more escape regions between two adjacent layers of the composite mould.

7. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein one or more of the escape regions between two adjacent layers of the composite mould is provided by a gap or channel.

8. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein by least one of the adjacent surfaces of the at least two aligned layers has a surface roughness which allows the liquid moulding substance to escape at a higher viscosity than the liquid moulding surface viscosity which can escape along the mould surface facing the surface of the substrate onto which the three-dimensional designer layer is to be formed.

9. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein at least one layer of the composite mould is formed from wood, explored wood, acrylic, plastic, silicone, cardboard.

10. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the substrate surface onto which the three-dimensional design is to be applied comprises a sheet of flexible material or fabric.

1 1. A composite mould according to paragraph 10, wherein the material is one or more of:

a porous material;

a non-porous material;

a woven material;

a non-woven material.

12. A composite mould according to paragraph 10, wherein the material comprises one or more of: a netting or mesh material, a flock material, a felt-like material.

13. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the liquid moulding substance comprises a silicone substance.

14. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the mould is configured to allow the liquid layer of moulding substance to include one or more types of additional components which are retained in the three-dimensional moulded design.

15. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the additional components comprise: one or more electronic components; and/or

one or more articles of surface decoration; and/or

one or more articles providing engaging parts of a fastener mechanism.

16. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the material created by the mould is suitable for making one or more of the following types of technical clothing;

protective clothing; and/or

sports clothing; and/or

dance clothing.

17. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph dependent on paragraph 15, wherein the components are wireless electronic components.

18. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph dependent on paragraph 15 or 17, wherein the substrate surface is a flexible substrate and the components are electronic sensor components and the composite mould is used to form a flexible sensor surface on the flexible substrate.

19. A composite mould according to paragraph 18, wherein the flexible sensor surface comprises one or more electronic sensor components which are embedded in the solid moulding substance, wherein the electronic sensor components comprise one or more:

pressure sensors; and/or

touch sensors; and/or

proximity sensors; and/or

thermal sensors; and/or

radiation sensors; and/or

chemical sensors; and/or

atmospheric sensors.

20. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the one or more of the composite mould layers are formed using a 3-D printer.

21. A composite mould according to any preceding paragraph, wherein the upmost layer in use of the composite mould is open.

22. A moulded three-dimensional material flexible material formed using a mould according to any previous paragraph. 23. A method of creating a flexible sheet of material, the method comprising:

forming a substantially planar composite mould according to any one of paragraphs 1 to 21 , wherein the at least two aligned mould layers which form one or more recesses for retaining a liquid moulding substance are substantially planar mould layers and wherein the means to allow the moulding substance to escape comprises a gap created above a pressure threshold between two of the aligned mould layers;

filling the composite mould with a liquid moulding substance;

causing the liquid moulding substance to solidify in the said composite mould, wherein as the liquid moulding substance solidifies, some of the liquid moulding substance escapes between at least two of the mould layers; and

removing the solidified three-dimensional design from the composite mould.

24. A method according to paragraph 23, further comprising:

placing one or more components in the composite mould, wherein the moulded three- dimensional material formed includes one or more or all of the components placed in the mould.

25. A method according to paragraph 23 or 24, further comprising:

applying a pressure or a vacuum for a predetermined duration of time to the material to cause the liquid form of the moulding substance to be fixedly attached to the surface of a substrate material as the moulding substance solidifies to forms a three-dimensional surface design on a surface of substrate material; and/or

applying a temperature for a predetermined duration of time to mould and the material as the moulding substance solidifies and forms the three-dimensional surface design on the material surface.