FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/548,494 filed on Feb. 27, 2004, titled “Athletic Apparel with Resilient Applied Indicia” and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/589,686 filed on Jul. 21, 2004, titled “Athletic Apparel with Applied Indicia,” the entirety of which provisional applications are incorporated by reference herein.
The present invention relates generally to the field of textiles and textile apparel manufacture and, more specifically, to the manufacture of athletic apparel with applied indicia.
Apparel, such as shirts, jerseys, and pants worn by professional athletes and other uniformed individuals, typically includes indicia, such as numbers and letters, applied thereto. The applied indicia identify the person wearing the apparel, often by name and player number. Other indicia can include team logos and decorative elements.
Various methods are known for applying the indicia, such as the silk screening of colored inks directly on the apparel material or the application of heat activated transfers. More sophisticated and expensive apparel, such as that donned by organized leagues and high school, college, and professional athletes, generally include relatively stiff fabric indicia. During manufacture, these stiff indicia are positioned temporarily on the apparel using an adhesive and attached permanently by perimeter stitching.
Designing indicia desirable from an appearance standpoint is often a time-consuming process. For example, depending on the design, several layers of stiff fabric can be overlaid and laminated together to form the indicia, giving the appearance of depth, shadow, and other enhanced visual effects. These built-up indicia, while desirable from an appearance standpoint, can add undesirable additional weight and stiffness to the apparel, rendering the apparel uncomfortable to wear. Additionally, the indicia can impact the performance of the player by limiting range of motion, as well as increase the likelihood of ripping or tearing of the apparel in contact situations common in sports such as professional football and ice hockey. Also, it is often desirable to cost-effectively reproduce indicia that have been previously designed or manufactured.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, there exists a need in the art for apparel having lightweight indicia that are manufactured and applied to the apparel in a cost-effective manner, are visually appealing and do not compromise the comfort or life of the apparel to which they are applied.
In general, the present invention relates to the manufacture of athletic apparel with decorative or identifying indicia applied thereto. According to one aspect of the invention, the indicia include, in combination, a textile material and an adhesive film laminated thereto, along at least a portion thereof. The indicia may include more than one layer of resilient material covering an entirety or a portion of a proximate layer. In one embodiment, the indicia, textile material and adhesive film are resilient. In another embodiment, the adhesive film is thermally activatable.
In another embodiment, the invention is drawn to apparel including, in combination, a textile material substrate having the indicia applied thereto. In one embodiment, the textile material and indicia are resilient. In various embodiments, the indicia are applied thereto using stitching, adhesion, or a combination of stitching and adhesion.
According to another aspect, the invention includes a method of manufacturing apparel with indicia, including the steps of providing a resilient textile material apparel substrate, providing an indicia of a resilient textile material, and laminating the indicia to the substrate using a resilient activatable film. Optionally, the method may include the step of stitching the indicia to the substrate. In one embodiment, the film may be a thermally activatable adhesive.
According to another aspect, the invention includes a method of manufacturing apparel with digitally-processed indicia, including the steps of creating an image of the desired indicia in a digital format, transferring the image onto at least a portion of a textile substrate, processing the textile substrate having the image of the indicia over at least a portion thereof, providing a textile apparel, and laminating the indicia to the apparel in the appropriate position and orientation using an activatable film. In one embodiment, the film may be a thermally activatable adhesive. In another embodiment, the step of creating an image of the desired indicia in a digital format includes taking a digital photograph of the desired indicia. Alternatively, a photograph using conventional film can be prepared and converted to a digital format by scanning. In various embodiments, the step of transferring the image onto at least a portion of a textile substrate includes heat transfer. In some embodiments, the step of processing the textile substrate includes separating the portion of the substrate having the indicia thereon from the rest of the substrate by, for example, laser cutting.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, the present invention is not limited thereto and may be useful in a variety of additional textile processing and manufacturing operations.
Additional advantages and features of the invention may be better understood by referring to the following description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a flowchart representation of an embodiment of a method for manufacturing apparel having indicia in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 2 illustrates a portion of athletic apparel having an indicia applied thereto in accordance with the invention, with the apparel in an unstressed, relaxed state;
FIG. 3 illustrates the portion of athletic apparel depicted in FIG. 2 in a stressed state;
FIG. 4 illustrates a reverse side of the portion of athletic apparel depicted in FIG. 2 in an unstressed, relaxed state;
FIG. 5 illustrates the reverse side of the portion of athletic apparel depicted in FIG. 2 in a stressed state; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 6 is a flowchart representation of another embodiment of a method of manufacturing apparel having indicia in accordance with the invention.
Apparel and indicia applied thereto having characteristics in accordance with the invention provide heretofore unachievable performance characteristics to such apparel in a cost-efficient manner. Applications include apparel used in sports uniforms in professional sports. Moreover, when applied to apparel made of highly flexible, resilient, skin-tight fitting fabrics, such as those now being donned by professional ice hockey and football players, the unique construction and operational resiliency of the indicia, and thus the apparel, reduces the chances of the apparel tearing as a result of the physical demands of pulling and tugging on the uniform. Apparel in accordance with the invention provides significant advantages over conventional sports uniforms currently used in professional sports, such as those decorated with stiff indicia made from polyester twills and those decorated with indicia made using silk screening processes.
Any of a variety of textile constructions can be accommodated in accordance with the teachings of the invention. For example, in one embodiment of a method 100 for manufacturing apparel with indicia as depicted by the flowchart of FIG. 1, a resilient adhesive film is applied (step 110) to a resilient stretch fabric, such as Codura Lycra or Tricot warp knit fabric, by running the uncoated fabric through a roller lamination machine with a flexible adhesive film. Two of these coated layers of fabric can then be overlaid and laminated to each other (step 120), and cut (step 130) in various depths to create a registered layered digit or other indicia. Optionally steps 120 and 130 can be repeated one or more times to create the layered digit or indicia. In one example, the layers of these fabrics are heat fused together and then cut with a laser in predetermined profiles and nested patterns, to achieve a multi-colored, multi-layered resilient number, letter, or other indicia. For enhanced structural integrity and long life, the indicia can then be top sewn (step 140). The indicia can then be heat applied (step 150) to the uniform in the appropriate position and orientation, and finally sewn (step 160) to the garment about the perimeter of the indicia to complete the garment.
Single Layer and Multiple Layer Applications
According to one example of the invention, the preparation of a resilient indicia uses a Bemis 3410 clear flexible adhesive film having a nominal thickness of 2 mils (0.002 inches) (Bemis Associates Inc., Shirley, Mass.). This adhesive was then applied to various textiles, including Cordura Lycra and Tricot warp knits, although any of the stretch nylon or polyester knits and warp knit fabrics, including Spandex and the like, can be used. The Bemis 3410 adhesive was laminated to the fabric using an Oshima HP 90-LD multi speed, dual heat zone 32 inch rotary laminator with a 12 mm thick, 32 inch by 72 inch fiberglass Teflon sheet, as a backer. Additional resilient indicia were laminated using a manual method employing a Stahls Hotronix heat press.
When using the manual heat press, process settings employed were 380 degrees F. for 25 seconds, with a pressure setting of 2.5 kgs. Rotary laminator settings were 380 degrees F. at a speed of 5 cm per second, with a pressure setting of 2 kgs. With the rotary laminator process, 12 mm Teflon coated fiberglass was used as the transport sheet to stabilize the fabric and adhesive film as it was passed through the laminator.
Application of multi-layers of coated fabric to each other in a stacked configuration in preparation for laser cutting were heat laminated at a temperature of 375 degrees F., at a time of 15 seconds at 0.5 kgs of pressure. When using Tricot warp knit as a top layer, the time of adhesion was reduced to 8 seconds, to compensate for difference in density from the base layer.
FIG. 2 shows a portion of athletic apparel 10, such as a flexible open textile fabric hockey jersey produced in accordance with the teachings of the invention. The jersey 10 includes an indicia 14 in the form of a numeral five applied thereto in accordance with the invention with a resilient adhesive film. The numeral five indicia 14 includes a full base layer 18 and an overlaid trim edge layer 22 disposed about the perimeter of the numeral. In FIG. 2, the jersey 10 and the numeral five 14 are depicted in an unstressed, relaxed state. FIG. 3 shows the portion of the hockey jersey 10 and numeral five 14 in a stressed state. Note the complementary, consistent deformation and stretching of the numeral five 14 and the underlying jersey substrate 10.
FIG. 4 depicts the reverse side of the hockey jersey 10 depicted in FIG. 2 in the unstressed, relaxed state. Note the optional perimeter stitching 26 of the numeral five to the jersey 10, which can be more readily seen in this view. Lastly, FIG. 5 depicts the reverse side of the hockey jersey 10 depicted in FIG. 2 in a stressed state. Once again, note the complementary, consistent deformation and stretching of the numeral five (as evidenced by the stitching line 26) and the underlying jersey substrate 10.
Due to the resilient nature of all of the hockey jersey substrate 10, the numeral five indicia 14, and the interdisposed adhesive film, when the stress applied in FIGS. 3 and 5 is removed, the hockey jersey substrate 10 and the numeral five indicia 14 return quickly and uniformly to the flat, unpuckered, unstressed state depicted in FIGS. 2 and 4, respectively.
Resilient indicia and apparel manufactured in accordance with the teachings herein perform extraordinarily well, as compared with conventional rigid indicia. The indicia are relatively lightweight, stretch with the fabric, and do not provide a handhold for opposing players in contact sport applications. Moreover, the visual appearance of the indicia and apparel are improved, both when new, in an as manufactured state, and after numerous wear and wash cycles. The indicia maintain structural integrity, without indication of premature delamination, puckering, or sagging. This superior performance is exhibited in textile materials that are isotropic, as well as those that are non-isotropic and have different stress/strain characteristics depending on the orientation of the textile material.
Referring to FIG. 6, one embodiment of a method 200 of manufacturing apparel having indicia applied thereto in accordance with the invention begins with preparation (step 210) of a digital image of the desired indicia, for example, a cut and sewn logo, number, letter, or wordmark using a photo camera and, optionally, a general purpose computer. As one example, the image can be prepared by a taking a digital photograph of the indicia using a digital photo camera and storing it in a digital format either using the camera's storage capabilities or conventional external storage media. Alternatively, the image can be prepared by a creating a photograph of the indicia using conventional photo equipment, converting the photograph to a digital format using a scanner and general-purpose computer according to methods known in the art, and then storing the digital image using the internal or external storage media.
The image is then transferred (step 220), either directly from the digital camera or from a general-purpose computer capable of processing information stored on the internal or external storage media, to an uncoated textile substrate, such as, for example, a polyester twill, using any of sublimation processes known in the art, including heat transfer printing. In one example, heat transfer printing is implemented using a heat transfer paper. In various embodiments, in order to improve efficiency and increase fabric yield, multiple images of the indicia are transferred to the same textile substrate.
After the image of the indicia is transferred onto the textile substrate, a portion of the substrate having the image of the indicia thereon is separated (step 230) from the rest of the substrate using, for example, laser cutting.
In various embodiments of the invention, thusly-manufactured indicia are permanently bonded (step 240) to the apparel using a nylon adhesive applied to the surface of the indicia opposite the image. In one embodiment, a Bemis 3410 clear flexible adhesive film having a nominal thickness of 2 mils (0.002 inches) (Bemis Associates Inc., Shirley, Mass.) is used. The adhesive can be laminated to the fabric using an Oshima HP 90-LD multi speed, dual heat zone 32-inch rotary laminator with a 12-mm thick, 32-inch by 72-inch fiberglass Teflon sheet, as a backer. With the rotary laminator process, 12 mm Teflon coated fiberglass can be used as the transport sheet to stabilize the fabric and adhesive film as it was passed through the laminator. In one embodiment, rotary laminator settings are 350 degrees F. at a speed of 5 cm per second, with a pressure setting of 2 kgs. Alternatively, a manual method employing a Stahls Hotronix heat press can be used. In this embodiment, when using the manual heat press, process settings are 400 degrees F. for 40 seconds, with a pressure setting of 2.5 kgs. In various embodiments, the indicia is then heat laminated to the apparel in the appropriate position and orientation using the manual heat press with process settings of 400 degrees F. for 20 seconds. In one example, a cover sheet is disposed over the indicia to minimize undesirable dye transfer during application.
Because the indicia applied to the apparel as described above are permanently bonded to the fabric, no further stitching is typically necessary. In addition, when the original image was sewn to the fabric or otherwise included stitching, an image of stitching, i.e. “simulated stitching”, would appear in the image of the indicia created according to the above embodiments of the invention, which further improves visual appearance of the indicia.
While the invention has been shown and described with reference to specific embodiments, it should be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the claimed invention. Depending on the denier, thickness, and type of textile fabrics employed for the indicia and the substrate, thicker adhesive films and different temperature, time, and pressure profiles may be employed. It is therefor the intention to limit the invention only by the scope of the claims, including all variants and equivalents.