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Title:
APPARATUS FOR FOLDING T-SHIRTS
United States Patent 3774903
Abstract:
A machine for folding a T-shirt neatly around a card with two longitudinal folds and two transverse folds and with a minimum of wrinkling. The longitudinal folds are made around an elongated form at a longitudinal folding station by laterally movable, longitudinal folding blades while the T-shirt is confined between two conveyors which move at different speeds to compensate for the drag of the longitudinal folding blades. Transverse folding blades at first and second transverse folding stations respectively form first and second transverse folds by inserting appropriate portions of the T-shirt between corresponding closely spaced conveyors. The T-shirt is confined at all points to prevent slippage and to prevent unfolding of previously formed folds. Pins adapted to penetrate part way through the card serve as a means for delivering the card to the machine. BACKGROUND OF INVENTION The present invention relates in general to an apparatus or machine for folding articles, and particularly fabric articles. More specifically, the invention relates to a folding machine for small garments and, since the invention is particularly applicable to and was originally embodied in a machine for folding T-shirts, it will be considered in such connection herein for the purpose of disclosing the invention. SUMMARY AND OBJECTS OF INVENTION The primary object of the present invention is to provide a machine which will automatically fold a T-shirt around a card for packaging with a minimum of wrinkling. Prior to our invention, there was no machine available which would perform this operation automatically, with the result that all T-shirts were folded manually. The machine of the present invention greatly reduces the substantial cost of manual folding of T-shirts preparatory to packaging and shipment, which is an important feature. More particularly, the primary object of the invention is to provide a machine which will automatically and neatly fold a T-shirt around a card with two initial longitudinal folds around the respective longitudinal edges of the card followed by two transverse folds around the respective transverse edges thereof. A related object is to make the two longitudinal folds simultaneously at a longitudinal folding station, and to make the two transverse folds sequentially at first and second transverse folding stations. An important object of the invention is to provide a machine which confines the T-shirt and the card at all times to prevent slippage and to prevent unfolding of previously formed folds. More particularly, an important object is to provide a machine which confines the T-shirt and the card between two conveyor means, or between a conveyor means and a guide, at all times during the passage of the garment and the card through the machine, whereby the garment and the card are always under pressure to prevent slippage and to prevent unfolding. Another object is to provide speed differentials between various conveyor means throughout the machine to properly control the passage of the T-shirt and the card through the machine, as will be explained in more detail hereinafter. Another object of the invention is to provide a longitudinal folding means at the longitudinal folding station which includes: an elongated form along which the card and the T-shirt to be folded therearound are slidable; first conveyor means on the upper side of the form and engageable with the upper side of the T-shirt for moving the T-shirt and the card longitudinally of the form; folding means for folding the sleeves and sides of the T-shirt around the form, including longitudinally elongated, laterally movable folding blades below the form; and second conveyor means below the folding blades and engageable with the lower side of the T-shirt after the sleeves and edges thereof have been folded under the form. A key object of the invention is to provide a longitudinal folding means of the foregoing nature wherein the lower conveyor means is driven at a slightly higher speed than the upper conveyor means to compensate for the drag imposed on the T-shirt by the longitudinal folding blades. Another object of the invention is to provide first and second transverse folding blades at the first and second transverse folding stations for respectively forming first and second transverse folds in the T-shirt, to fold same around the transverse edges of the card, by inserting appropriate portions of the T-shirt between corresponding closely spaced conveyor means. Another object in connection with each of the two transverse folding means is to maintain the T-shirt in tension as it is inserted between the corresponding two closely spaced conveyor means, this being accomplished by maintaining the T-shirt in engagement with still another conveyor means which runs at a slightly higher speed than the conveyor means which delivered the T-shirt to the transverse folding station in question. Yet another and important object is to provide means at the second transverse folding station for maintaining the first transverse fold in the T-shirt while inserting another portion of the T-shirt between the closely spaced conveyor means at the second transverse folding station. Yet another object of the invention is to provide means for feeding the card to the elongated form of the longitudinal folding means, which card feeding means comprises pins adapted to penetrate one side of the card. Such pins effectively feed the inexpensive chipboard cards typically used in the industry.


Inventors:
Sjoman, Carl F. (Hollywood, CA)
Wilson, Clyde R. (Hollywood, CA)
Montoya, John L. (Hollywood, CA)
Bullett, Casper L. (Alhambra, CA)
Application Number:
05/068930
Publication Date:
11/27/1973
Filing Date:
09/02/1970
Assignee:
Team Industries (Los Angeles, CA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
493/938
International Classes:
B65B25/20; D06F89/02; (IPC1-7): B65H45/22
Field of Search:
270/64-66,86,93,94,83-85,67,79 53
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3552736METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR FOLDING DISPOSABLE DIAPERS1971-01-05Frick
3452979LAUNDRY FOLDER1969-07-01Grantham
3396878Folding device for flat goods1968-08-13Snayberger et al.
3391839Method and apparatus for packaging shirts1968-07-09Gwinn et al.
3312326Article orienting apparatus1967-04-04Huppenthal
3310207Apparatus for everting and folding pillowcases, bags or the like1967-03-21Gore
3279784Folding apparatus having laterally moving pleating members1966-10-18Schwendinger
3127165N/A1964-03-31Denny et al.
2709585Automatic folder1955-05-31Abell et al.
2268036Trip mechanism1941-12-30Kahn
1480947Machine for folding paper or other material1924-01-15Muller
0970424N/A1910-09-13
Primary Examiner:
Michell, Robert W.
Assistant Examiner:
Heinz A.
Claims:
We claim as our invention

1. In a folding machine, the combination of:

2. In a folding machine, the combination of:

3. A folding machine according to claim 2 including means for driving said second conveyor means at a higher speed than said first conveyor means.

4. A folding machine as set forth in claim 3 wherein said form and said second conveyor means converge in the downstream direction.

Description:
The foregoing objects, advantages, features and results of the present invention, together with various other objects, advantages, features and results thereof which will be evident to those skilled in the folding art in the light of this disclosure, may be obtained with the exemplary embodiment of the invention illustrated in the accompanying drawings and described in detail hereinafter.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a semidiagrammatic perspective view of a T-shirt folding machine which embodies the invention;

FIGS. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are perspective views showing successive steps in the folding of a T-shirt by the machine of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a semidiagrammatic longitudinal sectional view taken as indicated by the arrowed line 6--6 of FIG. 1 and showing a longitudinal folding means of the invention;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged transverse sectional view taken as indicated by the arrowed line 7--7 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a view similar to FIG. 7, but showing longitudinal folding blades of the machine in their closed positions, such blades being shown in their open positions in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a sectional view taken as indicated by the arrowed line 9--9 of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a semidiagrammatic view taken as indicated by the arrowed line 10--10 of FIG. 1 and showing a second transverse folding means of the machine;

FIG. 11 is a view similar to FIG. 10, but showing the second transverse folding means in operation; and

FIG. 12 is a fragmentary sectional view taken as indicated by the arrowed line 12--12 of FIG. 1 of the drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT OF INVENTION

Referring initially to FIG. 1 of the drawings, designated generally therein by the numeral 20 is a folding machine which embodies the invention and which will be regarded as extending longitudinally rearwardly from an inlet end 22 to an outlet end 24. As a matter of convenience, the general components of the folding machine 20 will be outlined briefly before considering any of them in detail.

The folding machine 20 is provided at its inlet end 22 with a receiving means 26 for a T-shirt 28 and an inserting means 30 for a card 32 around which the T-shirt is to be folded. As will be described in more detail hereinafter, the card 32 is positioned approximately centrally of the T-shirt 28, although somewhat closer to the bottom of the T-shirt than to the top thereof.

The T-shirt 28 and the card 32 move concurrently, with the card below the T-shirt, to a longitudinal folding means 34 which folds the sides and sleeves of the T-shirt around the longitudinal edges of the card along longitudinal fold lines 36, thereby producing the configuration shown in FIG. 2.

The longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 and the card 32 are conveyed from the longitudinal folding means 34 to a first transverse folding means 38 which folds the bottom of the T-shirt around the corresponding transverse edge of the card 32 along a first transverse fold line 40, as suggested in FIG. 3.

Subsequently, the T-shirt 28 and the card 32, with the shirt folded longitudinally along the longitudinal fold lines 36 and transversely along the first transverse fold line 40, are conveyed to a second transverse folding means 42. The latter folds the top of the T-shirt 28 around the corresponding transverse edge of the card 32 along a second transverse fold line 44, as suggested in FIG. 4 of the drawings. The T-shirt 28 is now completely folded around the card 32.

The folded T-shirt 28, and its card 32, are delivered to a receiving platform 46 which opens downwardly to deposit the folded T-shirt on a takeaway conveyor 48. Preferably, the takeaway conveyor operates intermittently to permit the formation of stacks of folded T-shirts thereon.

Turning now to a more detailed consideration of the foregoing general components of the folding machine 20, the T-shirt receiving means 26 includes an upwardly and rearwardly sloping ramp 52, FIG. 1, against which the top of the T-shirt 28 is placed by the operator with the front side of the T-shirt facing the operator and with the neck of the T-shirt centered relative to the ramp. Overlying the ramp 52 is a belt-type conveyor means 54, the lower rung of which moves rearwardly and is in close proximity to the ramp. Thus, as the top of the T-shirt 28 is inserted manually between the conveyor means 54 and the ramp 52, the conveyor means slides the T-shirt rearwardly along the ramp.

The conveyor means 54 slides the T-shirt 28 from the rearward end of the ramp 52 onto an upwardly and rearwardly sloping form 56 around which the sleeves and sides of the T-shirt are folded by the longitudinal folding means 34 in a manner to be described hereinafter. As the top of the T-shirt 28 leaves the ramp 52 and slides onto the form 56, the card inserting means 30 inserts the card 32 under the T-shirt, and between the T-shirt and the form. The card inserting means 30 is triggered in any suitable manner, as by a switch 58 engageable by the top of the T-shirt 28. The card inserting means 30 comprises a suitably-actuated carriage 60 which inserts the leading transverse edge of the card 32 between two suitably-driven rolls 62, the latter then propelling the card downstream for concurrent movement with the T-shirt 28 along the form 56 by the upper conveyor means 54.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 12, each card 32 is delivered to the card inserting means 30 from the bottom of a stack 64 in a magazine 66 by a carriage 68 movable transversely between the magazine and the card inserting means. An important feature of the invention is that the lowermost card 32 in the stack 64 is engaged by pins 70 on the carriage 68 which are of sufficient length to penetrate approximately half way through the lowermost card. Preferably, the pins 70 are inclined upwardly in the direction of movement of the carriage 68 toward the card inserting means 30, at an angle of the order of 45°. The card pickup means formed by the pins 70 operates very effectively in positively removing only the bottom card 32 from the stack 64 by penetration part way through such bottom card. This is true even with the very inexpensive chipboard cards normally utilized in the garment industry for this purpose.

Turning now to the longitudinal folding means 34, it comprises longitudinally elongated, laterally movable, overlapping longitudinal folding blades 72 which are located just beneath the form 56, as best shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, and which have rounded upstream ends 74. The longitudinal folding blades 72 are mounted adjacent their outer downstream corners on pivots 76 for laterally inward and outward swinging motion between closed and open positions, the open positions being shown in FIGS. 1 and 7, and the closed positions in FIGS. 8 and 9. (The open positions of the longitudinal folding blades 72 are also shown in broken lines in FIG. 9.) As shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, the longitudinal folding blades 72 are pivoted inwardly and outwardly between their closed and open positions by suitable actuators 78 connected to upright arms 80 pivotally mounted at their lower ends, at 82, and pivotally connected at their upper ends, at 84, to the upstream ends of the longitudinal folding blades. As the actuators 78 swing the arms 80 inwardly toward each other to close the longitudinal folding blades 72, the arms 80 assume more nearly-vertical positons to lift the upstream ends of the longitudinal folding blades slightly to bring them closer to the bottom of the form 56 and press the longitudinally folded portions of the T-shirt 28 upwardly against the lower surface of the form 56.

The actuators 78 are energized to close the longitudinal folding blades 72 when the T-shirt 28 and its card 32 reach the proper position. (This may be accomplished in any suitable manner, as by means of a switch, not shown, similar to the switch 58 and triggered by the T-shirt 28 when it reaches the correct position.)

When the longitudinal folding blades 72 are closed on the T-shirt 28 in the foregoing manner, they fold the arms and sides of the T-shirt under the form 56, as shown in FIG. 2, and as illustrated in FIG. 8 of the drawings.

Referring to FIG. 6, located beneath the longitudinal folding blades 72 is a lower belt-type conveyor means 88 which converges toward the upper conveyor means 54 in the downstream direction, and which is engageable with the folded-under sides and sleeves of the T-shirt 28 in an area adjacent the top of the T-shirt, and adjacent the downstream end of the longitudinal folding blades 72. The lower conveyor means 88 assists the upper conveyor means 54 in sliding the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 out of engagement with the longitudinal folding blades 72. An important feature is that the lower conveyor means 88 is driven at a slightly higher speed than the upper conveyor means 54 to compensate for the drag of the longitudinal folding blades 72 on the portions of the T-shirt 28 engaged thereby. The speed differential between the upper and lower conveyor means 54 and 88 may be accomplished in any suitable manner, being shown schematically in FIG. 1 by driving elements 90 and 92 of different diameters.

As the upper and lower conveyor means 54 and 88 slide the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 off the longitudinal folding blades 72, they deliver it, top end first, to the first transverse folding means 38. More particularly, as shown in FIG. 1, the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 and its card 32 pass around a drum 94, and between such drum and the belt of the upper conveyor means 54, which applies pressure to the longitudinally folded T-shirt and which, more importantly, inverts the T-shirt so that the longitudinally folded portions thereof are now on top. This facilitates making the first transverse fold with no danger of losing the longitudinal folds.

Subsequently, the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 passes between a guide 96 and a belt-type conveyor means 98, the guide comprising laterally spaced, longitudinal rods. When the top, leading portion of the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 engages a switch 100, the first transverse folding means 38 is actuated. This folding means comprises a transverse "blade" 102 which is actually a plurality of transversely spaced fingers insertable between the rods of the guide 96. The blade 102 inserts the fold line 40 of the T-shirt 28 between a portion of the conveyor means 54 and a closely spaced portion of another conveyor means 104 below the outlet end of the conveyor means 54. Tucking the longitudinally folded T-shirt 28 between the closely spaced conveyor means 54 and 104 in this manner results in transversely folding the lower portion of the T-shirt around the corresponding transverse edge of the card 32 along the fold line 40, as suggested in FIG. 3 of the drawings. The conveyor means 98 is driven slightly faster than the conveyor means 54 so as to stretch the T-shirt 28 slightly as the blade 102 folds it, thus minimizing wrinkling. It is important that the switch 100 engage exactly the same point on the T-shirt as the switch 58, to insure making the fold 40 exactly at the edge of the card 32.

With the fold 40 leading, the T-shirt 28 and its card 32 are propelled, by the downstream end of the conveyor means 54 and the conveyor means 104, to the second transverse folding means 42. More particularly, the T-shirt 28, with the transverse fold 40 leading, is inserted between an upper guide 106 and a conveyor means 108, which is also driven slightly faster than the conveyor means 54 and 104 to slightly stretch the T-shirt 28 so as to produce a neater fold. As is the case with the guide 96, the guide 106 preferably comprises laterally spaced, longitudinal rods.

When the fold 40 of the T-shirt 28 encounters a switch 110, FIGS. 1, 10 and 11, the second transverse folding means 42 is actuated. This folding means comprises a "blade" 112 consisting of laterally spaced fingers insertable between the rods of the guide 106. This blade 112 inserts the T-shirt 28 at the fold line 44 between a portion of the conveyor means 104 and a conveyor means 114, these being closely spaced so that they act to double the partially folded T-shirt 28 back on itself around the corresponding edge of the card 32 to form the final fold 44.

An important feature is that, by inserting the fold 40 between the guide 106 and the conveyor means 108 in the manner indicated, there is no possibility of having the fold 40 open. The same is true with respect to the guide 96 and the conveyor means 98, which insure against opening of the longitudinal folds 36.

After the second transverse fold 44 has been completed, the completely folded T-shirt 28 is deposited on the receiving platform 46. When the completely folded T-shirt 28 encounters a switch 116, FIG. 1, the receiving platform 46 opens downwardly to deposit the T-shirt on the takeaway conveyor 48. As previously indicated, the takeaway conveyor preferably is energized intermittently, after the formation of a stack, not shown, of folded T-shirts thereon of a predetermined height. For example, each stack may contain one-half dozen T-shirts 28.

It is thought that the over-all operation of the folding machine 20 will be clear from the foregoing so that repetition is unnecessary. However, it might be emphasized that one of the most important features of the folding machine 20 is that it applies some pressure to both sides of the T-shirt 28 at all points in its passage through the machine to prevent any slippage relative to the various conveyor means and to preclude any possibility of even partial opening of any of the folds 36, 40 and 44. Also, by the use of the speed differentials mentioned between various of the conveyor means, wrinkling of the T-shirt 28 in folding same is held to a minimum, which is another important feature.

Although an exemplary embodiment of the invention has been disclosed herein for purposes of illustration, it will be understood that various changes, modifications and substitutions may be incorporated in such embodiments without departing from the spirit of the invention as defined by the claims which follow.