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Publication numberUS3611757 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateOct 12, 1971
Filing dateJan 29, 1970
Priority dateJan 29, 1970
Publication numberUS 3611757 A, US 3611757A, US-A-3611757, US3611757 A, US3611757A
InventorsHills Isaac
Original AssigneeHills Isaac
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Plush pile fabric re-erection apparatus
US 3611757 A
Abstract  available in
Images(3)
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

PLUSH FILE FABRIC RE-ERECTION APPARATUS Filed Jan. 29, 1970 v 3 Sheets-Sheet l FIG.

INVENTOR ISAAC HILLS BY ATTORNEYS Oct. 12,1971 5 3,611,757

PLUSH PILE FABRIC RE-ERECTION APPARATUS Filed Jan. 29, 1970 Y 3 SheetsI-Sheet n INVENTOR ISAAC HILLS ATTORNEYS 061. 12, 1971 l. HILLS 3,611,757

PLUSH PILE FABRIC RE-ERECTION APPARATUS Filed Jan. 29, 1970 3 Sheets-Sheet :5

III".

F I G 5 INVENTOR ATTORNEYS United States Patent US. Cl. 68--5 B 11 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE The apparatus includes a conveyor upon which articles having an outer covering of plush pile fabric are placed so that the pile fabric may be cleaned and the pile fibers thereof re-erected to produce a fluffy appearance. The conveyor carries the articles through a jacketed first chamber wherein they are subjected to blasts of steam while being rotated to assure thorough and uniform. treatment of the pile fabric. The conveyor track subsequently carries the articles to a second chamber which is elevated with respect to the first chamber, and wherein the articles are dried. A portion of the heated air in the second chamber is directed into the jacket surrounding the first chamber to control the temperature in the first chamber. Subsequently, the conveyor carries the articles to an unloading station wherein they are prepared for packaging.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION (1) Field of the invention Re-erection of pile fiber on plush covered articles.

(2) Description of the prior art In recent years, many articles have been covered with a fabric backed pile fiber material. The plush pile fiber presents a fur-like appearance which is most desirable in stuffed childrens toys.

Usually the pile fibers are rayon or acrylics. In the fabric as manufactured, the pile fibers are initially erect and stand, ideally, perpendicularly from their backing. However, during shipment to the manufacturers of goods which utilize the pile fabric, the pile fibers, unless carefully handled, become matted and soiled. For example, if the fabric were rolled for shipment, convolutions thereof would, because of radial pressure, mat and crush the pile fibers of the underlying convolutions.

In an attempt to prevent the matting and soling of the pile fibers during shipment, creels have been utilized. The creels are so structured as to separate successive convolutions of the pile fabric from one another. Nevertheless, creels substantially increased the bulk of the shipped pile fabric and thus increased shipping costs. Furthermore, they reduced yardage per shipped package. Additionally, increased costs were incurred in winding the fabric on creels as opposed to conventional rolls. Pile also matted or crushed in the handling thereof incident to the manufacture of articles.

There have been attempts to re-erect matted pile. Unfortunately, mere brushing of the pile did not suflice because the pile tended to set in its matted or crushed condition, and the stresses induced in the pile fibers and which held them matted would not easily release to permit the pile fibers to return to their original erect position. It has been found that pile will re-erect if it is mildly agitated, e.g. by directing a moving stream of gas at it, and simultaneously heated to a stress-relieving temperature of approximately 300- F., but below deformation temperature for the material of the pile. The use of steam to heat pile fibers to stress-relieving temperature has been unsuccessful because there was a tendency for the steam to condense on the pile fabric making it unduly wet, hampering the Patented Oct. 12, 1971 re-erection of the fibers, and making the article soggy. Furthermore, uniform application of a steam spray over the fabric to assure complete treatment could not be achieved with equipment heretofore available.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION It is an object of the present invention to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus which is so constructed that it is not subject to any of the foregoing disadvantages.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus which is durable and well suited for production line operation, yet may be maintained at a minimal cost, while automatically producing complete re-erection of pile fibers as well as thoroughly cleaning the fabric.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus wherein articles covered with pile fiber fabric are drawn through successive chambers, being in the first chamber subjected to blasts of steam which remove soil particles and re-erect the pile fibers, and in the second chamber being thoroughly dried so that they are suitable for shipment without residual dampness.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus wherein articles covered with a pile fiber fabric are, after steam treatment, drawn through a heating chamber which is elevated with respect to a steaming chamber and with a portion of the hot air circulating in the heating chamber being drawn off into a jacket surrounding the steam chamber to control the temperature within the steam chamber.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus including a conveyor system which enables articles covered with a pile fiber fabric to be rotated while they are being carried through a steam. chamber, and wherein the steam chamber includes a plurality of vertically reciprocating steam nozzles which direct steam jets at rotating pile fiber fabric covered articles, whereby the steam is evenly distributed over the articles and the articles tend to fling off any slight amount of condensate that may be deposited thereon.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus which includes an endless conveyor system for carrying pile fiber fabric covered articles in a pendant position through a first chamber wherein the pile fibers are subjected to jets of steam, then through a second chamber wherein the articles are dried, and then through a cooling apparatus to an unloading station wherein the articles are removed and prepared for shipment.

It is another object of the invention to provide a novel, efficient, rapid and automated method of re-erecting a pile fabric surface of an article wherein such surface extends to at least a considerable extent around the circumference thereof.

Other objects of the invention in part will be obvious and in part will be pointed out hereinafter.

The invention accordingly constitutes the features of construction, combinations of elements, arrangements of parts, and series of steps which will be exemplified in the apparatus hereinafter described, and of which the scope of application will be indicated in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the accompanying drawings in which are shown various possible embodiments of the invention,

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a pile fiber fabric reerection apparatus constructed in accordance with and embodying the present invention, and showing, in dotand -dash lines, a conveyor with a plurality of pile fiber fabric covered stutfed toys suspended from the conveyor at spaced intervals therealong;

FIG. 2 is a further perspective view of the pile fiber fabric re-erection apparatus, said view looking toward the apparatus from the unloading station side, and showing pile fiber fabric covered stuffed toys passing between cool air nozzles as they leave the drying chamber;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the interior of the steam chamber, illustrating a vertically reciprocating steam manifold from which several nozzles project radially, and further showing jets of steam issuing from the nozzles and forming a vertically moving annular curtain that sprays pile fiber fabric covered stutfed toys carried by the conveyor along the curtain;

FIG. 4 is an elevational view of a pile fiber fabric covered stuffed toy suspended from a hook, the upper end of which engages the conveyor;

FIG. 5 is an elevational view taken within the steam chamber, and illustrating a pile fiber fabric stuffed toy being sprayed with a jet of steam issuing from a nozzle, and further illustrating, in dashed lines, the position of the doll with respect to the nozzle if there were no steam;

FIG. 6A illustrates a pile fiber fabric covered stuffed toy prior to re-erection and cleaning of the pile fibers;

FIG. 6B illustrates the toy after the pile fiber fabric has been re-erected and cleaned by undergoing a reerection cycle through an apparatus constructed in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 7 is an enlarged horizontal sectional view of an alternate embodiment of the apparatus, the same illustrating a modified structure for rotating a stuffed toy as it is being steamed.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS The present invention provides a novel approach to the problem of re-erection and cleaning of pile fiber after the manufacture of articles covered therewith. The apparatus is designed for assembly line utilization and lowers the cost of the finished articles because the pile fiber fabric may be shipped in economical wound rolls with touching convolutions as is the common practice with other fabrics.

Referring now in detail to the drawings, the reference numeral 10 denotes a re-erection apparatus constructed in accordance with and embodying the invention. Said apparatus is designed to be assembled and positioned on a factory floor and to occupy a minimal amount of space with the space utilization such that maximum operational efliciency is obtained as will be subsequently described.

The apparatus 10 includes a steam chamber 12 and a drying chamber 14 with the drying chamber positioned near the steam chamber and with its top at ceiling level.

There is additionally provided an overhead conveyor system 16 which carries pile fiber fabric covered articles from a loading station 18 through a steam chamber 12 wherein the articles are rotated in front of an array of vertically reciprocating nozzles which spray pressurized steam, then upwardly into a drying chamber 14 wherein residual moisture on the pile fiber fabric is removed. Subsequently, the conveyor system carries the articles from the drying chamber between air cooling nozzles 20 (see FIG. 2) to an unloading station 22.

The dimensions of the chambers and the lengths of the paths of travel of the articles in the chambers are such that with a conveyor system speed of approximately feet per minute, the exposure time of articles in the steam chamber 12 is approximately seconds and the exposure time in the drying chamber is approximately 85 seconds, with a total time duration between the unloading and the loading stations in the order of 2 /2 minutes. These exposure time figures are merely illustrative of a cycle which achieves satisfactory results in reconditioning the pile fabric of small, eg. twelve inch,

stuffed toys, and should in no way be taken in a limiting sense. It is well within the scope of the invention to increase or decrease the exposure time duration in any of the chambers to suit the needs of the individual articles whose pile fiber fabric coverings are being re-erected. Therefore, if the articles are of larger size than the stuffed toys for which the above time duration values were given, the times during which the articles are in the steam and drying chambers should be appropriately varied, i.e. longer for larger toys and shorter for smaller toys. Additionally, the temperature and relative humidity within the steam chamber may be varied as will be subsequently discussed to produce the optimum cleaning and pile fiber re-erection. Furthermore, it is also possible to vary the temperature of the air circulating within the drying chamber to increase or decrease the rate at which the articles are dried after leaving the steam chamber.

FIG. 6A illustrates a stuffed toy 24a with the pile fibers of the covering fabric crushed and additionally having accumulated soil acquired during shipment of the bulk fabric and during the steps in manufacture of the toy. The crushing of the pile fiber occurred during the shipment of the pile fabric as well as during the manufacture, i.e. fabrication, of the toy. The prior toy manufacturing steps which have crushed the erect fibers included manual and machine manipulations incident to the cutting of the covering fiber fabric, the manual and machine manipulations incident to the stitching of the cut pieces together to form the toy body, and the stuffing and decoration of the toy. The fibers adjacent a seam are extensively crushed during the sewing operations be cause the fabric is compressed between the feed plate and the shoe of the stitching machine. Furthermore the stitching of curved seams, e.g. at the limb sockets, requires extensive manual manipulation of the fabric which in creases both the crushing and separation of the fibers, and the accumulation of soil particles. FIG. 6B illustrates a toy which has undergone pile fiber fabric re-erection and cleaning by treatment in the apparatus 10.

To treat a toy 240, the same is suspended on a conveyor carrier 25 of which a great number are included in the conveyor system 16 (see FIG. 4). The carrier 25 includes a vertical shaft 26 having an upwardly directed hook 25a at its lower tip. The toy is impaled on the book which penetrates the pile fiber fabric and extends upwardly into the stuffed body which is thus securely supported from the carrier. As illustrated, the hooks are inserted in the toys calf, the toy being upside-down (see FIG. 5). It has been found that the toys may be suspended in either an erect or an upside-down position without affecting the ClTlCleIlCY of the pile fabric re-erection apparatus. The upper end of the shaft 26 is forked. The toy 24a is supported for rotation about a horizontal axis from a circular plate 28, which plate is journalled for vertical rotation at the end of a spindle 30. The upper end of the spindle is formed with an eye 30a through which a horizontal stub shaft 31 extends, the shaft being perpendicular to the direction of travel of the conveyor system so that the spindle is free to turn about the longitudinal axis of the stub shaft. The stub shaft is supported in a fork at the lower end of a hanger 32. The hanger 32 includes a pair of aligned rollers 33 at its upper end. The rollers 33 ride on horizontal flanges at opposite sides of the vertical web of an I-bar 34 defining a closed track which constitutes the path of translational movement of the conveyor carrier 25. Translational movement of the hanger 32 and thus the spindle and shaft 30 and 26, together with the toy 24a along the track defining I-bar 34, is achieved by the use of an endless chain 36 which is continuously driven and is guided beneath the I-bar track 34 Each hanger 32 is engaged by a link of the chain 36 so that movement of the chain moves the hangers 32.

One or more operators load the toys on the conveyor system by impaling them on successive hooks at the load ing station E8. The toys then pass into the steam chamber 12. The steam chamber 12 (see FIG. 1) includes parallel spaced walls 38, 40. The space between the walls provides a jacket surrounding the chamber to conserve heat as well as maintain the desired temperature within the chamber. The I-bar track '34 enters the steam chamber 12 through an opening 40a, traverses the chamber in a roughly horseshoe-shaped pattern (see FIG. 1) and exits from the steam chamber through an opening 40b on the same side it entered into the chamber. The conveyor system therefore assumes the horseshoe path while it travels through the steam chamber and thus the toys will travel in said path.

Jets of steam are blasted on the toys while they are moved in the horseshoe path through the steam chamber 12. Pressurized steam is supplied through a hollow vertical intake pipe 42 (see FIG. 3), which is slidably mounted over a cylindrical upright 44 of smaller diameter having sliding seals, e.g. O-rings, to prevent escape of steam through the lower end of the pipe. The high pressure steam travels through hollow radial supporting spokes 45 from the intake pipe 42 to a circular manifold 46, the front segment of which is removed. A plurality of steam nozzles 48 project radially from spaced points along the outer periphery of the manifold 46. The ends of the nozzles 48 are outwardly horizontally flared and are of a size sufficient to issue a jet of high pressure steam as a horizontal annular curtain, lacking only the arcuate portion at the front where a segment of the manifold is absent. The circular manifold conforms in shape to the horeshoeshaped portion of the I-bar track 34, being concentric therewith but of smaller diameter; therefore the various nozzles 48 will each be spaced the same distance from any conveyor carrier 25 passing in front of the same. Thus, when the toys move along the horeshoe path past successive nozzles, the radial distance between the nozzles and the toys will not vary except for the rocking and rotating motion of the toys which will be subsequently described.

It will be appreciated that while the toys are moved along the horseshoe-shaped path the jets of steam issuing from the several nozzles 48 will sequentially impinge upon and agitate portions of the pile fabric exterior surface of any given toy. To assure even distribution of steam vertically over the toy body and, hence, assist in complete reerection and cleaning ofthe pile fabric, the manifold 46, nozzles 48 and intake pipe 42 reciprocate vertically on the upright 44. For this purpose a double acting pneumatic cylinder 50 (see FIG. 2) is utilized to lift the intake pipe 42 which lowers due to its own weight. The stroke of the piston within the cylinder 50 is adjusted via screw 51. A suspension line 52 suspended from-pulleys is attached at one of its ends to the top of the intake pipe 42 and at its other end to a reciprocating piston within the cylinder 50. A counterweight 53 is utilized to offset a portion of the weight of the manifold and intake pipe. With this arrangement the annular curtain of steam reciprocates vertically around the toys as they travel in the aforesaid horseshoe-shaped path in the steam chamber.

The toys are rotated while they travel in said horseshoe-shaped path. This rotation assures an even distribution of steam circumferentially of the toy body which, in combination with the vertical reciprocation of the annular curtain of steam, results in an even re-erection and cleaning of the pile fibers.

To cause the rotation of the toys, there is provided within the steam chamber 12 and beneath the track 34, a stationary rack 54 (see FIG. which is at the same elevation as the circular plate 28 and is in abutting contact with the plate 28 while the plate is drawn along the horseshoeshaped path. The frictional engagement between the translative circular plate 28 and the stationary rack 54 causes the plate 28 to rotate relative to the hanger 32. In effect, the plate is a pinion meshing with the rack. To ensure rotation, the surface of the rack contacted by the plate is covered with a material, e.g. rubber, having a high coefiicient of friction. The shaft 26 and the toy which is carried by the hook at the end of the shaft 26 are thus rotated about an essentially vertical axis while moving along the horesshoe-shaped path.

An alternate arrangement for rotating the toys is shown in FIG. 7 and includes a five-pointed star wheel 128 (corresponding to the plate 28) a plurality of evenly spaced vertical rods 153 forming a cagelike rack (corresponding to the rack 54). The meshing engagement between the star wheel 128 and the rods 153 will assure positive rotation.

A shield 56 constructed of a sheet of somewhat rigid material, i.e. water-proofed sheet metal, is mounted within the steam chamber. 12 on the outside of and with its upper edge slightly beneath the track 34. The shield is in a conforming horseshoe-shaped pattern of a larger diameter than the track 34. The shield 56 is designed to block and condense the steam which passes through spaces between successive toys. The shield is so constructed that the steam will condense on its surface and the condensation will form water droplets which will fall to the bottom of the steam chamber 12. The shield 56 is sloped downwardly and outwardly, away from the toy, with its lower edges at about the level of or below the hanging toys, so that any condensate which forms on the shield will not come in contact with and wet the pile fabric of the toys being rotated.

As was previously mentioned, the steam of the jets which strike the toys from the nozzles 48 is pressurized. In fact, the original pressure of the steam at the main steam intake line 58 (see FIG. 2) is approximately 125 p.s.i.g. at 352 F. The steam from the line 58 passes through a water condensate trap 60 which extracts and discharges any excess water through a drain 62. Then the steam passes through a pressure reducing valve 63 wherein the steam pressure is reduced. Then the steam travels into the intake pipe 42 through a flexible hose 64 at the top end thereof. The steam issuing from the nozzles 48 is at a temperature of approximately 330 F. It is d sirable to have the steam in a slightly superheated state to heat the pile fibers while minimizing water vapor condensation at the pile. Highly satisfactory results have been obtained with steam at about p.s.i. g. at the nozzle orifices. The steam brings the fibers to their stress-relieving (relaxation) temperature while, simultaneously, rapidly and briskly brushing the fibers with the jets to re-erect the fibers. Additionally, any soil particles are removed from the fibers by this gaseous brushing action.

Because the steam is of relatively low moisture content, there is minimal condensation on the fibers. Additionally, the chance of a toy absorbing water vapor or condensed water is minimized.

It is interesting to note that because the steam pressure at the nozzles is substantial, the toys struck with the force of the jets pivot outwardly away from the nozzles. The toys would be suspended in an essentially vertical pendant position (with their centers of gravity, plus that of th shaft, directly below the pivot axes of the upper end of the shafts 26) if there were no steam pressure issuing from the nozzles and would normally be spaced a short distance from the mouths of the nozzles 48, a distance of approximately /2 inch from the torso of the toy, if a do l, accomplishing good results. This is illustrated in th dashed lines of FIG. 5. However, because the steam is pressurized, it blows the toys further away from the nozzles, typically one to three inches further, this distance having been found to be far enough away to prevent deformation of the pile, but close enough to obtain the necessary degree of agitation and to hold condensation 0n the pile to a low level whereby the toys and pile are not severely wetted to the point they cannot subsequently be rapidly dried.

Any condensate in the intake pipe 42 is drained through the hollow upright 44 and then through a water discharge tube 66 and the drain 62 to a sump. A pressure reducing valve is positioned in the drain 62 and a check valve 67 is provided in the discharge tube to prevent back flow.

It will be appreciated that in operation the toys travel through the horseshoe-shaped path within the steam chamber 12 quite rapidly, a typical average speed being approximately 30 feet per minute. They are at the Same time simultaneously being rotated at approximately 60 rpm. due to the engagement of the circular plate 23 (approximate circumference 6") and the rack 54. The manifold 46 reciprocates at approximately 6 cycles p r minute. The combined movement of the toys and the nozzles 48 assure the complete and even fiufiing, cleans ing, and re-erection of the pile fiber fabric in the steaming chamber.

The toys are carried through the horseshoe-shaped path within the steam chamber 12 and out of the steam chamher by the conveyor system 16. At this point the pile fiber fabric with which the toys are covered has been thoroughly cleansed by the high pressure steam and the fibers hav been re-erected after being heated to a temperature above the relaxation (stress-relieving) temperature of the synthetic fibers. Despite the fact that super-heated or only lightly saturated steam was utilized in the steam chamber, there is a quantity of residual moisture carried by the pile fiber fabric due in part to the circulation through the chamber or spent, now saturated, steam and, therefore, it is necessary to dry the pile fiber fabric in order to maintain the pile erect and to package the toys for shipment without the danger of Water deterioration. The drying chamber 14 is provided for this purpose. The drying chamber is disposed close by the steaming chamber so that, in their passage between the two chambers, the pile fibers will experience no detrimental degree of cooling. Typically, the distance of travel between the chambers is only about 8 feet.

From an observation of FIG. 1 it will be realized that the drying chamber 14 is positioned at an elevation above the level of the steam chamber 12. This is because the steam chamber has its base at floor level, and because the drying chamber 14 which utilizes a gas-fired hot air blower 70 to dry the pile fiber fabric will lose a minimal amount of heat if the drying chamber is at the highest possible elevation with regard to the space limitations at the situs. In fact, the drying chamber at the installation illustrated has its top at the ceiling 68. A plurality of stilts 72 support the drying chamber 14 and the hot air blower in their elevated positions. The hot air blower 70 includes an electric motor driving an air blower which forces the heated air into the drying chamber. The air in the drying chamber is recirculated through the blower and a thermostat (not shown) maintains the air temperature in the drying chamber at a predetermined temperature, e.g. 310 F., by regulating gas feed. A humidistat (not shown) controls a valve in an exhaust to the atmosphere (later to be described) and in a fresh air intake to the recirculating system at rates which hold the moisture content of air in the drying chamber to a value which at ambient room temperature will be below 100% relative humidity so that when the toys leave the drying chamber there will be no formation of condensate on the pile fibers.

The conveyor system carries the toys into a leg of the drying chamber 14 through an entrance opening '74. Thereafter the conveyor system slopes upwardly to reach the drying chamber proper. An observation of FIG. 1 will reveal that the actual path which the conveyor system takes within the drying chamber is of a sinuous (festooned) nature and includes a plurality of back and forth passes so that an increased time duration within the drying chamber is provided with the same speed of the conveyor system. It can also be observed from FIG. 1 that the path 76 of the conveyor system includes an upwardly sloped entrance portion 78 and a downwardly sloped egress portion 80 respectively leading to and from the dry ing chamber M. The sinuous segment of the path 76 is adjacent the top of the drying chamber 14 and intermedi- 8 ate the sloped portions. With an average lineal speed of the chain 36 of approximately 30 feet per minute, and a desirable time within the drying chamber of seconds, approximately 45 feet of the conveyor system will be in the sinuous segment and sloped portions. It has been found that With the drying chamber temperature at approximately 310 F., 85 seconds exposure of a toy completely removes any residual moisture from the pile fiber fabric covering and the toy itself.

As was previously mentioned, the steam chamber includes a jacket between its outer 40 and inner 38 Walls. This jacket is heated by hot air which is drawn from the drying chamber through a bleed duct 82. The amount of air which is bled is controlled by a damper gate (valve) 84 positioned in the bleed duct '82 intermediate the drying chamber and the jacket of the steam chamber 12. Thereby heat loss from the steaming chamber is reduced and the temperature of the air/steam mix in said chamber is controlled.

The toys which have completed the drying cycle are lowered through the egress portion 80 of the conveyor system. At this time the toys have been completely dried and their pile fiber re-erected so that they now may be categorized as toys whose pile fiber coverings have been reconditioned and may be considered finished toys 24]). The toys 24b pass through an exit opening 86 and immediately thereafter between pairs of opposed air cooling nozzles 20. The air cooling nozzles 20 direct jets of cooler air (approximately 110 F.) on the toys 24b. The air velocity of the jets of cooling air on the toys 24b leaving the drying chamber 14 is approximately feet per minute and this air provides a suitable final fluff to the pile fiber fabric and additionally chills or shocks the fibers in their upright position. Furthermore, the cooling air reduces the temperature of the toys so that they may be manually removed from the conveyor carrier 25 without discomfort to the operators.

The conveyor carriers move along the path of the conveyor system to the unloading station 22 where the toys 24b are manually removed from the carrier 25. The toys are completed, e.g. eyes, buttons, ribbons and other accoutrements are applied and they are then readied for shipment by applying labels, tags, etc. and are packaged.

The I-bar track is shaped to is appropriate configuration by conventional metal bending and joining operations and is held by overhead supports (not shown). The chain is located beneath the track and guided to follow the same by sprockets (not shown) of which at least one is driven to move the chain.

It will be appreciated that the proper treatment for reerection of the pile fibers involves not only the blasting of the fibers with the super-heated pressurized steam, but also the fact that the humidity and temperature within the steam chamber is controlled so that optimum conditions result. With such optimum conditions the fibers reach their relaxation temperatures and are reset in their desired erect position.

The steam chamber 12 is provided with an exhaust duct 88 which includes a damper gate 90. There is also provided an exhaust blower 92, powered by a motor. The jacket for the steam chamber has an exhaust duct 94 including a damper gate 96. The duct further includes an exhaust blower 98. The provision of additional ducts to meet the needs of any particular installation is, of course, contemplated. It has been found that excellent results have ben obtained with relatively small, e.g. 12 inches in height, stuffed toys having a rayon pile fiber fabric covering [having a setting (stress-relieving) temperature of approximately 325 F] with the ambient relative humidity within the steam chamber at about 100%. The humidity within the steam chamber at the area immediately adjacent the toys themselves, and when the toys are in contact with the blasts of super-heated steam. will be less than 100% and. therefore. the tendency for the pile fiber fabric to accumulate excessive quantities of moisture or conden sate is diminished. It has also been found that, in conjunction With an ambient relative humidity within the steam chamber of 100%, the temperature within the steam chamber should be at approximately 150 F. This, of course, can be controlled not only by the adjustment of the exhaust ducts through the use of the dampers, but also through the control of the amount of hot air which is drawn from the drying chamber 14 and into the jacket surrounding the steam chamber 12.

Although the foregoing description has been related to the re-erection of synthetic pile fiber covers on toys, e.g. figurines, the invention has been thus explained solely by way of example and without limitation and it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the invention can be practiced on other articles, the surfaces of which are similarly formed, i.e. at least in part are composed of pile fabric, the pile fibers of which are synthetic and are capable of being restored by treatment with a fast-moving stream of a heated gas, preferably steam. Typical such other articles are garments, e.g. fur coats, a surface of which is constituted in whole or in part of a synthetic restorable pile fabric.

Thus, it will be seen that there are provided plush pile fabric re-erection and reconditioning apparatuses and methods which achieve the various objects of the invention and which are well adapted to meet the conditions of practical use.

As various possible embodiments might be made of the present invention and as various changes might be made in the embodiments above set forth, it is to be understood that all matter herein described or shown in the ac companying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

Having thus described the present invention, there is claimed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent:

1. An apparatus for restoration and re-erection of articles having a pile fabric covered surface, said apparatus comprising means forming a conveyor system for carrying the articles in a suspended position along a path, a first chamber, the path of the conveyor system extending into, through and out of the first chamber, the first chamber including a plurality of nozzles arrayed successively alongside the path of travel of said system through the first chamber, means for introducing pressurized steam into said nozzles, each article carried by the conveyor system passing adjacent the successive nozzles so that the pile fabric covered surface is traversed along one dimension thereof by the steam issuing from the nozzles, means for moving said nozzles in a path transverse to the path of the conveyor system to traverse along an axis perpendicular to the first dimension the pile fabric covered surface by the steam issuing from the nozzles, the apparatus further including a second chamber, said second chamber being positioned adjacent the first chamber, the path of the conveyor system extending from the first chamber into the second chamber and carrying articles from the first into the second chamber, the apparatus further including means for forcing heated air into the second chamber, the heated air forced into the second chamber drying the pile fiber fabric of the articles, and an unloading station, the conveyor path leading out of the second chamber to the unloading station where the articles are removed from the conveyor system.

2. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1 wherein the first chamber includes means for controlling the relative humidity and temperature within the chamber.

3. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1, said apparatus being disposed in a space having a ceiling and wherein the second chamber has its top at the ceiling to reduce heat loss.

4. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1 wherein the first chamber includes a double wall forming a jacket surrounding the chamber, and means for introducing heated air into said jacket to control the temperature within the chamber and reduce heat loss.

5. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1 wherein the conveyor system includes at least one conveyor carrier, said conveyor carrier including means for rotating the article while it is being moved in the portion of the path of the conveyor system within the first chamber, whereby the steam issuing from the nozzles will progressively impinge around the circumference of the article.

6. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 5 wherein the means for rotating the article includes a plate, means rotatably mounting the plate on the conveyor system so that the plate is capable of rotating as well as moving along the conveyor path, the first chamber including means for engaging the plate to rotate the same.

7. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 6 wherein the means for engaging the plate includes a rack and means mounting said rack in the first chamber ad acent the conveyor path, the periphery of said plate being in engagement with the rack.

8. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 7 wherein the plate includes a plurality of evenly spaced radially projecting points, the rack includes a plurality of matingly spaced vertically oriented rods, the points engaging the rods to assure positive rotation of the plate.

9. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1 wherein a shield is mounted within the first chamber, said shield comprising an elongate plate, said plate being positioned in the chamber adjacent the conveyor path on the side thereof opposite the nozzle so that steam issuing from the nozzle which does not strike the article forms a condensate on the shield, the shield being angularly inclined downwardly and outwardly away from the article whereby condensate drains from the shield without contacting the article.

10. An apparatus constructed in accordance with claim 1 wherein the conveyor path within the first chamber is of horseshoe shape, the means for introducing pressurized steam into the nozzles includes a circular manifold, the nozzles project radially from the manifold and the center of the horseshoe-shaped path and the center of the manifold are vertical and coincident.

11. An apparatus for restoration and re-erection of articles having a pile fabric covered surface, said apparatus comprising means forming a conveyor system for carrying the articles in a suspended position along a path, a chamber, the path of the conveyor system extending into, through and out of the chamber, the conveyor system including at least one conveyor carrier, said conveyor carrier including means for rotating the article while it is being moved in the chamber, the chamber including a plurality of nozzles arrayed successively alongside the path of travel of said system through the chamber, means for introducing pressurized steam into said nozzles, each article carried by the conveyor system passing adjacent the successive nozzles so that the pile fabric covered surface is traversed along one dimension thereof by the steam issuing from the nozzles, means for moving said nozzles in a path transverse to the path of the conveyor system to traverse along an axis perpendicular to the one dimension the pile fabric covered surface by the steam issuing from the nozzles.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,445,902 5/1969 Rosenberg et a1. 26--2 WILLIAM I. PRICE, Primary Examiner U.S. c1. X.R. 26-2 R; 68-20

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4170086 *Mar 20, 1978Oct 9, 1979Isaac HillsStuffed toy animal
US4947528 *Jul 17, 1989Aug 14, 1990Milliken Research CorporationMethod and apparatus to erect pile fibers
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Classifications
U.S. Classification68/5.00B, 68/20, 26/2.00R
International ClassificationD06C29/00, D06G1/00
Cooperative ClassificationD06C29/00, D06G1/00
European ClassificationD06G1/00, D06C29/00